The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on November 1, 2019, that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) would continue through January 4, 2021 for six countries: Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Nepal, and Sudan. The Immigration Act of 1990 established TPS to protect foreign nationals in the United States from being removed to their country of origin if their home country became unsafe while they were in this country, and if returning would put the foreign national at risk of serious harm, including illness, violence or death.
A country may be granted TPS for a number of reasons, such as an environmental disaster like the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Ongoing armed conflict in a country may also result in a grant of TPS for residents of that country. Other extraordinary conditions that are temporary in nature may also justify TPS designation for a country.
If you are from one of the six countries for which TPS validity has been extended, the extension is good news. As of right now, if you have registered for TPS you need not take any action to continue TPS, to re-register, or to renew your Employment Authorization Documents (EADs, or work papers). However, TPS is not automatic just because you are from a country with a TPS designation. You must register for TPS to be granted this status.
If you have TPS and need to prove that you have current valid employment authorization, you can present your existing EADs along with a copy of this Federal Register Notice. You can explain that your TPS benefits have been automatically extended until January of 2021.
As positive as it is that TPS validity has been extended for another year, you should not ignore the reality that this extension is not an indefinite one. The future of TPS for these countries is unclear. You should take advantage of the extension to explore your immigration options and take action to protect your ability to remain in the United States after TPS is no longer available. While it is true that for some countries, TPS designation has been in effect for years, TPS designations are made for a maximum of 18 months at a time, and may be made for as little as 6 months.
Therefore, if you are currently allowed to be in the U.S. as a result of your home country having a TPS designation, now is the time to consider your next steps. TPS does not create a path to lawful permanent residence (green card status) where one did not otherwise exist. In other words, if you entered the United States without inspection and are undocumented, the fact that you are from a country with TPS status does not change that fact.
It is possible to have another legal immigration status and TPS at the same time. For example, if you applied for asylum and were also granted TPS, you can still pursue your asylum claim. If you came to the U.S. on a student or temporary worker visa, you can remain in the U.S. as long as that legal status continues.
You may also be able to change status if you currently have a legal status (TPS, as mentioned above, does not count in the eyes of USCIS). For instance, if you are in the country on a student visa, but your education is ending and you want to work in the U.S. , you may be able to change to a work-related status if you have an offer of employment. You may also be able to begin the process of adjusting status to become a lawful permanent resident, or green card holder.
In some cases it may be necessary to leave the country in order to petition for an adjustment of status. If you think you might need to do this, be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before leaving the U.S. to make sure you will be able to be readmitted.
If you entered the country without inspection, your options are, of course, more limited. But that doesn’t mean that you have no options. You may be eligible to apply for refugee status. If you are a victim of crime or human trafficking and are assisting law enforcement, you may be eligible for a “U” or “T” visa.
If you are from one of the six countries for which temporary protected status designation has been extended, now is the time to take action to protect your ability to remain in the United States on a long-term basis. Contact our law office to schedule a consultation to discuss your options with an experienced Maryland family law attorney.