Early in August, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it is reinstating a process that will allow people covered by Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to apply for green cards in the US.
This gives thousands of migrants the chance to become permanent residents, including many who technically entered the US illegally. It also makes both applying for temporary protected status more valuable for eligible migrants. Here’s what you need to know about TPS, how it benefits recipients, and who’s eligible for this protected immigration status in the US.
What Is TPS?
Temporary protected status is an immigration status granted to people from certain countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security designates as unsafe. Countries are considered unsafe because of issues such as ongoing armed conflicts, epidemics, natural disasters, and other temporary but severe conditions. If someone from a designated unsafe country is in the US, they can apply for TPS to avoid returning to their home country while it is actively dangerous.
TPS is by nature temporary. It is intended to allow foreign nationals to live and work in the US until they can safely return to their homes. However, many countries retain these designations for years or decades, leaving people with temporary protected status in the US for a significant portion of their lives.
This is why granting TPS holders the opportunity to pursue green cards is so important. Many people with temporary permanent status have built lives, careers, and families in the US. By providing a path to permanent residency, USCIS is ensuring that TPS recipients have the opportunity to remain in the country even after their country of origin is no longer designated as unsafe.
Benefits of TPS
TPS offers recipients three critical benefits:
- They can’t be removed from the US. Whether a TPS recipient has entered the country on a legal visa or illegally, they cannot be removed from the US once they have it. They can safely remain in the US without being detained by the Department of Homeland Security due to their immigration status.
- They can apply for an employment authorization document (EAD). Since countries may remain unsafe for months or years at a time, recipients need a way to support themselves. With TPS, they can apply for EADs that will allow them to work in the US and support themselves until they obtain a green card, another visa, or return to their country of origin.
- They can petition for travel authorization to leave and return to the US. Critically, temporary protected status makes people eligible for travel authorization. Without authorization, foreign nationals cannot leave the US and return unless they have a new visa. However, with authorization, recipients can leave for urgent humanitarian reasons like caring for a sick relative and return safely to the US afterward.
In short, eligible people can apply for TPS to live and work in the US until it is safe to leave and even to leave and return to the country if there’s an urgent need.
Who Is Eligible for TPS?
TPS is a restricted immigration status. Only people from specific countries designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security can apply. The 15 countries currently eligible are:
- El Salvador
- South Sudan
If someone currently does not have citizenship in any country for some reason but last lived in one of these 15 countries, they are also eligible for TPS.
Other eligibility requirements include:
- Continuous residence: Every country on the TPS designation list is given a residency date. All applicants must have continuously resided in the US since that date to be eligible.
- Continuous physical presence: A candidate must be physically present in the US without a break since the last time their home country was designated. That means they cannot have left the country without a travel authorization since that date. Typically, if a candidate meets the continuous presence requirement, they also meet the continuous residence requirement.
- Clear criminal record: An applicant cannot have a felony conviction or two or more misdemeanor convictions in the US to be eligible.
Apply for TPS with Qualified Legal Assistance
Getting temporary protected status may be the first step toward receiving permanent residency in the US. If you believe you may be eligible for temporary protected status, you should reach out to Litwin & Smith to discuss your situation. Our experienced immigration experts will help you determine if you’re eligible and guide you through the application process so you can safely build your permanent home in the US.