If you are currently residing in the U.S. and a citizen of a country that the U.S. government has determined to be currently in turmoil (including ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions) and therefore unsafe, you may be granted temporary protected status (TPS). TPS is valid for a limited time and receipt of TPS does not entitle you to a green card or any other kind of visa protection.
What Nations Have Been Given Temporary Protected Status?
If you are unsure of whether you are eligible for TPS, you can look for your country in the Federal Register. In past years, TPS has been given to nationals of the following countries:
- El Salvador;
- Rwanda; and
How Is TPS Different From Asylum or Refugee Status?
The U.S. government provides special protections for those from countries suffering extreme hardship (TPS) and for those who have personally encountered maltreatment (asylees and refugees).
Asylum And Refugee Definitions
Asylum status is granted to people who apply while already inside of the U.S. and refugee status is granted to those who have not yet entered the U.S. Aside from this distinction, asylees and refugees include people who have been persecuted and/or have a justifiable fear of persecution by the government or by people that the government cannot control. This discrimination must be due to the asylee or refugee’s race, nationality, political opinion, or involvement in a certain social organization.
There is no limit placed on the number of individuals who may be granted asylum, although there are annual quotas set according to country (by the U.S. President) on the number of refugees that may remain in the U.S. each year. Currently, TPS is limited only to individuals of certain countries and not to a set number of nationals.
Political asylum and refugee applications can take from several months to a year or more to approve. However, the U.S. Citizens and Immigrations Services (USCIS) office can approve your TPS within several weeks.
Asylees and refugees have 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, you may apply for lawful permanent residence. Those with TPS may also legally work and live in the U.S. until the designated period concludes. However, you cannot gain permanent residency status under TPS. Once your country is taken off the Federal Register, your citizenship standing will revert back to the status you held prior to your TPS or any status that you received while under TPS.
Am I Eligible For Temporary Protected Status?
As a pre-requisite for temporary protected status, you must be a national of a country designated for TPS. You are eligible to fill out Form I-821 (or Form I-821A) and apply for TPS if you:
- Establish a continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the United States for a specified time period;
- Are not subject to one of the criminal, security-related, or other TPS bars; and
- Apply in a timely manner for TPS benefits (and, even if the Secretary of Homeland Security extends a TPS designation beyond the initial designation period, you must timely re-register to maintain your benefits under the TPS program).
What Can Keep Me From Attaining TPS?
You may be ineligible to apply for the TPS program, even if you are from a designated country, if you:
- Have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the United States;
- Are a persecutor, terrorist or otherwise subject to one of the bars to asylum; or
- Are subject to one of several criminal-related grounds of inadmissibility 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, an lawyer can help you to prepare the paperwork necessary for the TPS program and answer any questions you may have regarding U.S. immigration processes.