Temporary Protected Status, Explained
Understanding temporary legal status for immigrants in the U.S.
What is TPS?
People arriving in the United States from certain countries may be granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) when deporting them to their country of origin poses a threat to that person’s security. TPS is granted when the person’s home country is experiencing difficulties or conflicts that make returning untenable, or a direct threat to the wellbeing and safety of that person.
People who are granted TPS are protected from removal, granted employment authorization (with an Employment Authorization Document,) and are eligible to apply for travel abroad authorization (Application for Travel Document, Form I-131). As of October 2020, approximately 411,000 TPS recipients lived in the United States.
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Included in the Immigration Act of 1990 is the power for the Attorney General, the head of the Department of Justice, to grant temporary protected status — a non-permanent status that allows its grantees to work and live in the United States – to individuals from countries where returning is not a safe option. This status can be granted if the country is affected by armed conflict, unprecedented natural disaster, or other extraordinary, temporary conditions.
Until 2003, immigration was administered by the Department of Justice. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and three immigration agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Eventually the power to grant TPS shifted by statute from the Attorney General to the newer position of Secretary of Homeland Security.
How is TPS Determined?
Whether or not a country is given a TPS designation is at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. DHS is required to consult with other federal agencies, like the Departments of State, Defense, or Justice in creating the designation for a country, or even a part of a country. If a country meets one or more of the following conditions, it is eligible to be considered for TPS designation:
- An ongoing armed conflict: Examples include internationalized armed conflict (civil war) and non-international armed conflict with stateless bad actors, such as DAESH.
- Natural disasters: Generally any natural event that causes extreme disruption to living conditions such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and epidemics. Often infrastructure has been so disrupted that sending the person back to their home country is challenging.
- Extraordinary and temporary conditions: If the safety and security of someone seeking to enter the United States would be greatly imperiled if they were to return to their country of origin due to issues that are not covered under the first two conditions; with the caveat that if the appropriate U.S. government agency finds it contrary to U.S. national interest to allow people to stay.
Once a country receives Temporary Protected Status, any national of that country or a stateless person who had habitually resided in that country who is already in the United States may apply for TPS. Anyone who enters the United States after the date of designation generally may not apply for protective status at that time.
A country’s Temporary Protected Status is usually for 6, 12, or 18 months, and can be extended at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security. If the designation is “redesignated,” anyone from the country who came to the United States after the original designation may apply for the protections. If a country’s designation is extended, the status of those people who currently hold TPS is extended until the new extension date.
To be eligible for TPS, a person must:
- Be a national, or a habitually stateless resident, of a country with TPS
- Be continuously physically present in the United States since a country’s TPS designation;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since a date specified by the Secretary of Homeland Security; and
- Pose no threat to the U.S. for nefarious, criminal or national security-related reasons, determined by the relevant U.S. agency.
Countries Currently Under Temporary Protected Status
As of March 1, 2021, the following countries are currently designated for Temporary Protected Status
|Country||Date of Potential Expiration|
|Afghanistan Burma||Valid through November 20, 2023 Extended until May 25, 2024|
|Cameroon||Valid through December 7, 2023|
|*El Salvador||Will continue as long as a preliminary injunction remains in effect|
|Ethiopia||Valid through June 12, 2024|
|*Haiti||Valid through Aug. 3, 2023 for those granted TPS under the new designation announced Jan. 26, 2023.|
|*Honduras||Will continue as long as a preliminary injunction remains in effect|
|*Nepal||Will continue as long as a preliminary injunction remains in effect|
|*Nicaragua||Will continue as long as a preliminary injunction remains in effect|
|Somalia||Extended until September 17, 2024|
|South Sudan||Extended until November 3, 2023|
|Sudan||Valid through April 19, 2025 for those under the new TPS designation. Others are covered by a preliminary injunction|
|Syria||Extended until March 31, 2024|
|Ukraine||Valid through April 19, 2025|
|Venezuela||Extended until March 10, 2024|
|Yemen||Extended until March 3, 2023|
* Denotes countries whose designation had been terminated by the Department of Homeland Security by December 2020, but were auto-extended by court rulings.
Countries whose temporary protection status has expired:
- Angola (Expired March 29, 2003)
- Bosnia-Herzegovina (Expired February 10, 2001)
- Burundi (Expired May 2, 2009)
- Guinea (Expired May 21, 2017)
- Guinea-Bissau (Expired September 10, 2000)
- Province of Kosovo (Expired December 8, 2000)
- Kuwait (Expired March 27, 1992)
- Lebanon (Expired April 9, 1993)
- Liberia (Expired May 21, 2017)
- Montserrat (Expired August 27, 2004)
- Rwanda (Expired December 6, 1997)
- Sierra Leone (Expired May 21, 2017)
TPS: The Application Process
An application for TPS must include the following forms, evidence and either appropriate fees or a fee waiver request.
Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status: To register or re-register for TPS, file this form either through USCIS’ TPS webpage or the address listed in the Federal Register for that country (excluding Venezuela). Information on how to file can be found on each country’s page within USCIS’ TPS webpage navigation.
Important: TPS applicants from Burma, Somali, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen can now submit Form I-821 online.
Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization (EAD): It’s not necessary to file form I-765 as part of the TPS application, and the form can be filed at any time while a person holds TPS.
While not necessary, Form I-765 at the same time as Form I-821 may, per the USCIS website, “may help you receive your EAD more promptly if you are eligible.”
Form I-601, Application for Waiver of the Grounds of Admissibility (only if applicable): If a person is considered inadmissible to the United States but wants a waiver on the grounds of that judgement, this form must be filed.
The following must be submitted with the TPS application. In all cases, do not send the original documents, but a copy of that documentation.
Identity and Nationality Evidence: This proves nationality or habitual residence in a country which has a TPS designation. Primary evidence as defined below is the most favorable documentation to file. If USCIS does not find submitted evidence to be sufficient, it will issue a request for additional evidence. At that point, secondary evidence as defined below may be submitted.
- A copy of a passport;
- A copy of a birth certificate, accompanied by photo identification; and/or
- Any national identity document bearing a photograph and/or fingerprint issued by country of origin, including any documents issued by that country’s Embassy or Consulate in the United States, such as a national ID card or naturalization certificate.
If none of the primary evidence is available, an affidavit with the following may be submitted:
- Proof of efforts to obtain such documents; and
- An explanation about why the consular process was unavailable to you, and affirmation that of either nationality or habitual residence of a country with a TPS designation.
There may be an interview as part of the process; at that time, additional evidence may be submitted.
- Nationality documentation, such as a naturalization certificate, even if it does not have a photograph and fingerprint;
- A baptismal certificate if it indicates nationality or in the case of a minor, a parent’s nationality;
- Copies of school or medical records if they have information supporting a claim of nationality from a country designated for TPS;
- Copies of other immigration documents showing nationality and identity; or
- Affidavits from friends or family members who have close personal knowledge of the date and place of an applicant’s birth and their parents’ nationality. The affidavit should include information about how he or she knows or is related to the applicant, and how he or she knows their life details, such as of the date and place of birth and the nationality of the applicant’s parents. (The nationality of parents is important if an applicant is from a country where nationality is derived from a parent.)
Date of Entry Evidence: This documentation is pretty straightforward, and it proves when an applicant entered the United States. Acceptable evidence is:
- A copy of a passport;
- I-94 Arrival/Departure Record; or
- Copies of documents specified in the “Continuous Residence (CR) Evidence” as defined below.
Continuous Residence (CR) Evidence: This documentation shows an applicant was residing in the United States at the time their country of origin was granted TPS. Evidence of this includes, but is not limited to the list below. A full list can be found on the Form I-821 instructions.
- Employment records;
- Rent receipts, utility bills, receipts or letters from companies;
- School records from the schools that an applicant or their children have attended in the U.S.;
- Hospital or medical records concerning treatment or hospitalization of you or your children; or
- Attestations by church, union or other organization officials who know the applicant.
Fees: If registering for TPS for the first time, there are a series of fees involved. If re-registering, there is no fee for form I-821. Fees can be paid with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check, payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Credit cards, using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions, are accepted at USCIS Lockbox facilities. Included in filing for registration or re-registration of TPS is a fee for biometrics. This is a separate appointment USCIS makes with an applicant.
For form I-821, the fee varies depending on several factors. A chart of the fee structures can be found here and includes additional costs for form I-765.
The fee for I-601 is $930.
Those unable to pay fees can submit a fee waiver request, via Form I-912, Application for Fee Waiver (or other written request). For more information, visit Additional Information on Filing a Fee Waiver.
If an applicant’s fee waiver request is denied, they may re-file and pay the correct fees either before the registration deadline or within 45 days of the date on the fee waiver denial notice, whichever is later.
TPS: Additional Tips
A person can register for TPS using U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) application process. There are fees associated with the process.
If TPS is granted, the protective status includes a temporary stay of deportation for the length of the status and, for the same time period, temporary authorization to work in the United States. People with TPS can also apply, separately, for advance parole, which provides permission to travel internationally from the United States and return. (Public assistance is not included in the status.)
Temporary Protected Status does not provide a path to a green card or citizenship; but neither does it eliminate any eligibility nor prevent anyone eligible from applying for citizenship. In the spring of 2021, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing cases on TPS, regarding both the path to permanent residence of someone with TPS, and the path to permanent residence for someone with TPS who entered the United States without inspection.
If a person wants to adjust their status, under the current Homeland Security protocols, they must leave the United States and apply through the consular process.
If TPS has been removed from a person’s country of origin, that person’s status reverts to what it was prior to their being granted protected status, unless a new status was acquired during the TPS period.
One other status is close in effect to TPS:
Deferred Enforced Departure (DED): This is very similar to TPS but the designation is not from a power granted by Congress to a cabinet secretary, but rather is an executive office power. Only Liberia (effective until June 30, 2022) and Venezuela (effective until July 20, 2022) have DED designations as of February 2021.
Being in the U.S. on TPS doesn’t automatically mean you can apply for a green card, but you may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency through an alternative route, for example, by marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
If you’d like to know more about applying for a green card, Boundless can help. Learn more!
No. Only people from certain designated countries can apply for TPS, while anyone has the right to seek asylum in the U.S.. If you are granted asylum, however, you may be able to seek permanent residency.
There isn’t a fixed time frame for the duration of TPS, but usually a time frame is announced at the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Yes, if you have been granted TPS in the U.S., then you can work. You will need to submit Form I-765 to request employment authorization, either at the same time as you apply for TPS or after.