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Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans: What it Means

Venezuela and United States flags

On March 8, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that effective March 9, 2021, Venezuela will be designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eighteen months, until September 9, 2022. What does this designation mean?

As the name suggests, TPS is a temporary immigration status. Congress created the Temporary Protected Status Designation as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. The status allows nationals of designated countries to remain in the United States temporarily while their home country is dealing with extraordinary, temporary situations, environmental disaster or armed conflict. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), approximately 323,000 Venezuelans in the United States are eligible for TPS.

As Secretary Mayorkas noted, “The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens. It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.

Current circumstances in Venezuela prevent Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. from safely returning to their home country. Those conditions include a crumbling infrastructure, deepening poverty, and the increased presence and influence of nongovernmental armed groups. The country is facing a humanitarian crisis, including an increase in the spread of communicable diseases and widespread hunger of its citizens.

TPS designations can be made for six, twelve or eighteen months at a time. At least 60 days before the status expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security must decide whether to terminate or extend TPS. When TPS terminates, individuals who had TPS either revert to whatever immigration status or category they had immediately before TPS (unless it has expired), or maintain any status or category granted during TPS, provided that status or category extends beyond TPS.

Who is Eligible to Apply for TPS?

Venezuelan nationals, and individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela may be eligible to apply for TPS. Applicants must be able to show continuous residence in the United States as of March 8, 2021 in order to be eligible for TPS.

There is a 180-day registration period extending from March 9, 2021 through September 5, 2021 in which to apply for TPS. Individuals seeking this temporary status are encouraged to file their applications (Application for Temporary Protected Status, Form I-821) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during this time period. There is a filing fee for this application, but applicants may also apply for a fee waiver using Form I-912. Applicants without a fee waiver may also be required to pay a biometric services fee. Applicants are encouraged to file their applications as early as possible during the registration period to ensure timely processing.

Applicants will be required to undergo security and background checks as part of the process of determining their eligibility for TPS. Individuals applying for TPS may also apply for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) using Form I-765. Applicants may apply for EAD at the same time as they apply for TPS, or they may apply at a later date. Applicants for TPS may also apply for travel authorization.

Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure

Some Venezuelan nationals (and individuals without nationality who last habitually resided in Venezuela) are covered by a declaration of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). DED is not an immigration status. It is an administrative stay of removal issued by the President for a specified period of time. On January 19, 2021, the former president established DED for Venezuelan nationals for 18 months, through July 20, 2022.

Some individuals may be covered by DED and also apply for and receive TPS. Employment Authorization Documents are available under both programs, but if a person has EAD under one program, they need not apply under the other. If you received EAD because of Deferred Enforced Departure, your EAD will expire on July 20, 2022 and you will need to present your employer with another form of continued work authorization.

Individuals who are covered by DED, but who believe they are also eligible to receive TPS, should apply for TPS during the initial registration period. Doing so will minimize the risk of problems in the event they are unable to qualify for TPS late initial filing after the expiration of DED.

Answers and Help Regarding Temporary Protected Status

An experienced immigration attorney can answer your questions about TPS and assist you in applying. Temporary Protected Status does not currently lead to lawful permanent residence or citizenship in the United States, but the Biden administration has proposed creating a path to citizenship for individuals with TPS. To learn more about applying for TPS, we invite you to contact our law office.

Categories: Immigration Law