If a person is a citizen of a country that the U.S. government has determined to be in turmoil and therefore unsale, the person may be granted temporary protected status (TPS). If a foreign national gets temporary protected status, it confers on them a work permit. It can also give rise to a stay of removal, or deportation, for all of the foreign nationals from a country who are in the U.S. at the time the U.S. government designates the country as eligible for TPS.

The conditions that can lead the U.S. to declare a country in turmoil and unsafe could include such conditions there as:

  • Ongoing armed conflict in the country, such as a civil war;
  • Environmental disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes; or
  • Other conditions that are both extraordinary and temporary.

To qualify for TPS, a person must:

  • Be a citizen of a foreign country that has been given the TPS designation. Or, if a person is stateless, they must have lived in a country with a TPS designation before coming to the U.S.;
  • Have been physically present in the U.S. continuously since the date when the TIPS designation became effective;
  • Have resided in the U.S. continuously since a date specified by the Secretary of Homeland Security; and
  • Not be inadmissible to the United States or be barred from asylum for certain criminal or national security-related reasons, such as people who have been convicted of any felony
    or two or more misdemeanors.

Citizens of a country with the TPS designation do not automatically receive TPS. They must register during a specified registration period and pay fees. A person’s immigration status at the time they apply for TPS status has no effect on their eligibility for it. Also, an order of removal issued prior to a person submitting their application has no effect on their eligibility.

What Nations Have Been Given Temporary Protected Status?

If a person does not know whether they are eligible for TPS, they can check to see if their country has been listed at the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In past years, TPS has been given to the following countries:

  • Bosnia;
  • El Salvador;
  • Lebanon;
  • Liberia;
  • Kuwait;
  • Rwanda; and
  • Somalia.

This would mean that citizens of these nations living in the U.S. might be eligible for TPS or may have been at one time.

How Is TPS Different from Asylum or Refugee Status?

The U.S. government provides TPS for the citizens of certain designated countries suffering extreme hardship and for those who have personally encountered mistreatment, i.e. asylees and refugees. Temporary Protected Status is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals of certain countries experiencing problems that make it difficult or unsafe for their nationals to be removed to those countries.

Asylum status and refugee status are personal to an individual, whereas TPS status is conferred on a nation and a person is protected, because they are a citizen of that nation.

Asylum status is available to any citizen of any nation, if the person has been persecuted or fears persecution because of their race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group or political opinions. A person who seeks asylum status must be in the U.S. at the time they apply.

Refugee status is available to people who are fleeing a civil war or natural disaster, but may not be eligible for resettlement under U.S. law. These people may, however, fall within the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Generally, a person must be outside their home country to be eligible for the U.S. refugee program. They must also be admissible to the U.S., so that would mean that they do not have criminal convictions or health conditions that would prevent their admission to the U.S.

In addition, a person cannot be considered for refugee status if they have ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in the persecution or harming of any other person because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinions.

The U.S. gives priority for refugee status to certain classes of people as follows:

  • Referrals: If the UNHCR, a U.S. Embassy or certain designated non-governmental organizations refer a case, it is given priority;
  • Special Humanitarian Concern: Groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the U.S. refugee program; and
  • Family Reunification Cases: These would be people who are the spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of people lawfully admitted to the United States as refugees or asylees. Or it would be people who are the spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of either permanent residents, i.e. Green Card holders, or U.S. citizens who were at one time refugees or asylees.

Asylum and Refugee Definitions

Asylum status is granted to people who apply when they are already living in the U.S. Refugee status is granted to people who qualify and have not yet entered the U.S. Aside from this distinction, asylees and refugees both include people who have been persecuted or have a justifiable fear of persecution by the government of their home country or by people that the government is not able to control.

The asylum or refugee must have been subjected to the persecution or threatened with it because of their race, nationality, political opinions, or involvement in a certain social organization.

Quotas

While there are visa quotas in the U.S., there is no limit on the number of people who may be granted asylum in the U.S. As for refugees, there are annual quotas set according to country by the U.S. President on the number of refugees who may remain in the U.S. each year. At present, TPS is limited only to people of certain countries and not to any specified number of citizens from nations with the TPS designation.

Application Processing

It can take from several months to a year or more for the government to approve political asylum and refugee applications. However, a USCIS office can approve a person’s TPS application within several weeks. There is a fee which depends on the applicant’s age and other factors. It ranges from a low of $50 to a high of $545.

Citizenship Status

Asylum and refugee status confers the right to live and work in the U.S. for an unlimited amount of time. Additionally, after one year as an asylee or refugee, a person may apply for lawful permanent residence.

Those with TPS may legally work and live in the U.S. until the designated TPS period comes to an end. However, a person can never gain permanent residency status under TPS. Once a country is taken off the list of nations with TPS status, a person’s status reverts back to the status they held prior to their TPS or any status that they may have attained while under TPS.

Am I Eligible for Temporary Protected Status?

Again, in order to get temporary protected status, a person must be a citizen of a nation that has been designated as one needing TPS. A person is eligible to fill out Form I-821 (or Form I-821A) and apply for TPS if they:

  • Have been present in the U.S. continuously for a specified period of time;
  • Would not be barred because of criminal convictions or national security concerns;
  • Apply within the specified period of time for TPS benefits. Also, if the Secretary of Homeland Security extends a TPS designation beyond the initial period, a person must re-register in order to maintain their benefits under the TPS program.

What Can Keep Me from Attaining TPS?

A person may be ineligible to apply for the TPS program, even if they are from a designated country, if they:

  • Have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors in the U.S.;
  • Are a persecutor, terrorist or otherwise subject to one of the bars to that status; or
  • Are inadmissible on one of several criminal-related grounds for which a waiver is not available.

Do I Need An Immigration Lawyer?

An immigration attorney can discuss with you your options for entering or remaining in the U.S. Additionally, a lawyer can help you to prepare the paperwork necessary for application to the TPS program, or any other program for which you might qualify.

An experienced immigration attorney can answer any questions you may have regarding your status and U.S. immigration processes.