When another country is experiencing an extraordinary and temporary hardship, the Homeland Security secretary may allow a foreign national to remain in the U.S. if the conditions prevent them from safely returning home or if the country is unable to handle their return. Those allowed to stay under these circumstances are given what is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the secretary may designate a country for TPS due to temporary conditions in their home country, such as:
- Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
- An environmental disaster (such as an earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
- Other extraordinary and temporary conditions
The U.S. can deny individuals TPS if their presence in this country is contrary to our own national interests.
When deciding which countries should be designated for Temporary Protected Status, the Homeland Security secretary consults with other government agencies, including the Department of State, the National Security Council, and sometimes the Department of Justice (DOJ). The decision as to whether to designate a country for TPS is not subject to judicial review.
Countries designated for TPS (as of this writing) are:
- Burma (Myanmar)
- El Salvador
- South Sudan
Who Is Eligible for TPS?
Those from designated TPS countries are not automatically given Temporary Protected Status. They must register during a determined timeframe and pay filing fees, which range depending on age and if they are also requesting an employment authorization document. An individual’s immigration status at the time of application doesn’t affect their TPS eligibility.
To qualify for TPS, an individual must:
- Be a national of the foreign country with a TPS designation (or if stateless, have last habitually resided in a country with a TPS designation)
- Be continuously physically present in the United States since the effective date of designation
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since a date specified by the Homeland Security secretary
- Not be inadmissible or be barred from asylum for certain criminal or national security-related reasons
What Does Temporary Protected Status Provide?
Individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are given temporary eligibility enjoy several benefits. The individual cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security because of their immigration status in the United States.
When someone is given protected status, they:
- Are not removable from the United States
- Can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD)
- May be granted travel authorization
How Long Is Someone Granted TPS?
How long a country, and by extension a person, can be granted Temporary Protected Status is not defined by law. TPS is initially granted for 6, 12, or 18 months at a time. No less than 60 days prior to the expiration, the secretary decides whether to extend or end the status. If a decision isn’t published at least 60 days in advance, the designation is automatically extended for six months. In theory, extensions could be continually granted.
When TPS Designation Ends
TPS beneficiaries return to the immigration status they had prior to TPS or to a new immigration status they acquired while having TPS. Those who entered the U.S. without inspection and are ineligible for other immigration benefits would return to be considered undocumented and subject to removal.
Other Grounds for Removal
If you have been convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors, you are not eligible for TPS or renewal. The U.S. Attorney General also has the authority to revoke the status if they believe you are a drug trafficker or are the spouse, son, or daughter of one. The Attorney General can also bar you from TPS protections if they think you are engaging in any form of terrorism or espionage. In these cases, you will be placed into removal proceedings.
Is Temporary Protected Status a Pathway to Citizenship?
Temporary Protected Status does not itself provide a means for a person to gain citizenship. That said, TPS does not prevent a person from applying for non-immigration status, filing for an adjustment of status, or applying for any other immigration benefit for which they may be eligible. TPS does not grant any advantages, and the individual must still meet all the eligibility criteria for whatever benefit they are applying. Likewise, denial of any other benefit does not automatically affect their TPS.
Understanding the Complexities of Immigration Law
Our legal professionals at Hubbs Law Firm have a strong focus on immigration law. If you are wanting to immigrate to the U.S. or you are already here and need sound counsel, we are here to guide you through the daunting process of acquiring legal status.