What is Temporary Protected Status?
Throughout the world, natural disasters and human influences can displace individuals, requiring them to flee for safety and stability. Whether the influence is an earthquake, hurricane, war, or famine, there are instances where certain people cannot reasonably return to their home country for an unknown amount of time. When this happens, eligible foreign nationals in the U.S. may apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). As its name suggests, TPS is a temporary immigration status. It also does not lead to naturalization or permanent resident status. TPS does, however, provide safe harbor to those in need.
This article reviews Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Below, you will find answers to the following questions:
- What is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
- Who is eligible for TPS?
- What countries are currently on the TPS designation list?
- How do TPS beneficiaries differ from refugees or asylees?
- What current events involve TPS beneficiaries?
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) came into existence with the passing of the Immigration Act of 1990. Since then, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people have relied on TPS to protect them and allow them to live away from strife and/or disarray. While TPS does protect eligible foreign nationals from deportation, it does not confer legal status. Thus, it does not lead to a green card or naturalization.
TPS designations are renewed for limited intervals – 6, 12, or 18 months. During each renewal period, beneficiaries must re-apply for continuation of status. When a person has TPS status, they can work and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Certain nations, like Honduras, have been present on the TPS-designation list for decades. Many TPS beneficiaries from Honduras have put down roots in the U.S., having children and building careers.
How does Temporary Protected Status differ from other programs?
As discussed, TPS is technically not a permanent legal designation. While it does prevent deportation and authorize legal work, it does not allow beneficiaries to seek green cards or naturalization. (Though, if a person can qualify via another route, TPS does not prevent them from doing so.)
Asylees and refugees, once approved, receive permanent legal status and can eventually apply for green cards. A green card means that a foreign national is a “lawful permanent resident.” After some time as permanent residents, both asylees and refugees can become U.S. citizens. Once receiving either status, it is not expected that beneficiaries will ever return to their home countries.
Further, both asylum and refugee status are provided when a person or family has faced specific persecution or prejudice. They must possess a reasonable and credible fear that they will face retribution or even physical harm upon return to their home. On the other hand, TPS designees cannot return home due to armed conflict, natural disasters, or other temporary reasons.
In short, TPS nations cannot safely or organizationally handle an influx of returnees. Thus, the reason for stay of removal is not personal, but national. After the temporary disaster or conflict passes, the U.S. expects TPS designees to return home. (Whether or not this is always truly feasibly is a subject of fierce debate.)
Who is Eligible for Temporary Protected Status?
Any foreign national from a TPS-designated nation has the potential to apply for benefits. If a person arrives in the country illegally, this does not bar them from eligibility for TPS.
Below is a list of requirements for eligibility for TPS benefits. According to the USCIS, in order to receive Temporary Protected Status, a foreign national must:
- Be a citizen of a TPS-designated nation;
- Have been continuously physically present (CPP) since the most recent effective date for their home country;
- Apply during a registration or re-registration period;
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since their TPS-designated nation’s specified date (if applicable);
- Be admissible to the U.S.; and
- Possess no bars to asylum or assignment of status, including certain criminal convictions.
Unfortunately, technically the DHS or USCIS can cancel or alter status at any time and without notice. To read more about TPS registration requirements, visit the USCIS’s website.
Current TPS-Designated Nations
Since 1990, countries chosen for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) face termination and/or renewal by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at least every 18 months. Currently, the following nations are considered eligible for TPS. These countries are subject to change – if you have any questions about applying for TPS, contact an expert immigration attorney.
According to the USCIS, the following nations are designated for TPS:
- El Salvador*
- South Sudan
*Those countries marked with an asterisk had their TPS designation canceled by the Trump administration. Status for citizens of these nations has been temporary protected via a judicial injunction (Ramos et al. v. Nielsen et al.). As of March 1, 2019, DHS renewed status for nationals of these countries as per court mandate (read on the Federal Register).
**The Trump administration also terminated TPS rights for these nations. Citizens of both Honduras and Nepal are currently suing the administration using the same justification and rhetoric as those in Ramos et al. v. Nielsen et al.
The Future of Temporary Protected Status
Recently, Temporary Protected Status has made headlines throughout America. This is due to the cancellation of status for certain beneficiaries from several nations. Immigrants from these countries may have possessed TPS benefits for years, even decades. They have integrated within their communities, built lives, and grown families. Without TPS designation, these foreign nationals faced the threat of immediate removal from the U.S. For many, this meant potential separation from their American-born children.
Last year, status holders sued the federal government in an attempt to reinstate protections. Due to the critical nature of this court case, the presiding judge issued an injunction to prevent the Trump administration from deporting any foreign nationals from the following countries: Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua. You can read the injunction here. The final result of Ramos et al. v. Nielsen et al. is unclear at this time. Davis & Associates continually monitors the USCIS website for updates and will post any relevant news when it becomes available.
Questions? Talk with a Qualified Houston Immigration Lawyer
For those TPS beneficiaries facing a potential loss of status, the future can seem daunting and even nerve-wracking. Unfortunately, no one can predict exactly what will happen in the coming months and years, especially with parties hotly debating the TPS program in U.S. courts. Unfortunately, the true victims are those TPS beneficiaries who face uncertainty, especially after spending years in the U.S.
Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself and your family is to work with an expert immigration attorney. Davis & Associates proudly serves immigrants in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Miami. Our qualified and compassionate attorneys are up-to-date on all facets of immigration law and court proceedings. We stay informed so you can relax and trust in our knowledge and experience!
For your comfort and convenience, Davis & Associates offers complimentary initial consultations. You’ll sit down with one of our attorneys, discuss your individual needs, and understand your options – all for free. We’re ready to help – contact us today!