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USCIS Restores Path to Green Cards for TPS Holders

In a significant win for people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), the federal government has officially reinstated a significant process that will allow them to apply for green cards. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will once again permit TPS holders to leave and re-enter the US to receive an official inspection and admission to the country.

This process was in place for years, but it was halted during the Trump administration. While noncitizens were still issued temporary protected statuses in the interim, many did not receive inspections at US ports of entry, which meant that they did not technically have an official admission. Without an inspection and admission, a noncitizen is not eligible to apply for permanent residency, regardless of any other status that may make them eligible.

This significantly reduced TPS recipients’ options for gaining permanent residency in the US. Many TPS holders were initially in the country illegally, often due to overstaying their visas. As such, they did not undergo the necessary inspection and were not eligible for green cards despite receiving TPS status after entering the US. More importantly, many of these people could not leave the US because their TPS status would not permit them to return to the country, so there was no way for them to pursue the necessary inspection.

Temporary protected status does not lead to any form of permanent residency in the US. By allowing TPS holders to leave and return to the US again, USCIS is granting them the opportunity to pursue legal permanent residence. These people, who may not have a home to return to in their native country, now have a path to building a lawful, permanent home in the US.

Who Is Impacted by Simpler Immigration Regulations

Allowing TPS holders to pursue green cards allows some of the most vulnerable people in the world to find a safe haven. The federal government established this status to give foreign nationals the option to live and work in the US if their home country was considered unsafe. Currently, the US grants TPS to people from 15 countries:

AfghanistanCameroonEl Salvador
South SudanSudanSyria

Regardless of how people from these countries first enter the US, they can now work with USCIS to re-enter the country with their TPS designation and receive the official inspection that will make them eligible for a green card.

Limitations on the New TPS Green Card Eligibility

The USCIS memorandum will have an outsized effect on vulnerable populations, including illegal immigrants and refugees. Still, status as lawfully admitted is not the only requirement for a green card. TPS holders must also fall into one of the standard eligible categories to begin their application. For instance, a recipient may now be eligible for permanent residency if they are:

  • Married to a US citizen
  • Widow or widower of a US citizen
  • Parent of a US citizen who is 21 or older
  • Employed in the US by a company that is willing to sponsor them

While this limits which recipients may make use of the new green card process, it prioritizes those who have built relationships in the US.

Furthermore, TPS holders must apply for travel authorization to leave and re-enter the US. A travel authorization is granted for urgent humanitarian reasons such as visiting sick relatives or to further the social or cultural interests of the US. Without appropriate authorization, a TPS recipient who leaves the country may lose their status and will not be allowed to return.

As such, TPS holders cannot simply leave and immediately return to get their lawful admission status. Still, anyone with temporary protected status who does need to leave the country will have a better opportunity to become a permanent US citizen upon their return.

Work with Expert Immigration Attorneys to Simplify Your Green Card Application

If you’re living in the US under temporary protected status, you now have more options to get your green card. However, despite the USCIS memorandum, there are still barriers that make it challenging to qualify for permanent residency. If you want to pursue permanent residency, you should reach out to the experienced immigration attorneys at Litwin & Smith.

Our law firm has been guiding clients through the immigration process for decades. We will help you understand your options and eligibility, then support you through the application process. Call our California firm at 650-535-8052 to schedule your consultation to learn more about how we can support your green card application process in light of the new TPS regulations.

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