Temporary Protected Status

What is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

Created by Congress in the Immigration Act of 1990, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration status designed to offer a lifeline to foreign nationals already in the U.S. from certain designated countries. The Secretary of Homeland Security (with inputs from the Department of State, the National Security Council, and occasionally the Department of Justice) designates a foreign country for TPS when conditions there (usually due to war, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions) prevent the safe return of that country’s nationals present in the U.S.

Foreign nationals from TPS countries present in the United States at the time the U.S. government makes the designation are granted a stay of deportation and can even apply for a work permit. As of October 2020, there were approximately 411,000 TPS recipients residing in the United States.

How Long Do TPS Designations Last?

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations last 6, 12, or 18 months at a time. 60 days before a TPS is set to expire, the Secretary of Homeland Security has to make a decision to extend or terminate the designation based on the changing conditions in the foreign country. If a decision cannot be reached in the 60 days prior to the TPS expiration, the designation is automatically extended for 6 months. There is no legal limit to how long a country can have TPS designation – many countries carry the TPS designation for several years at a time.

Temporary Protected Status Eligibility?

Individuals must meet the following conditions to qualify for TPS:

  • Be a citizen of the country which has TPS designation. In the case of stateless individuals with no fixed nationality or country of origin, they must have habitually lived in the TPS designated country before coming the U.S.
  • Must have maintained residency and continuous physical presence in the U.S. during and after the TPS designation of their country of origin.
  • Cannot be barred from the U.S. for being a threat to national-security or for criminal offenses, i.e. being found guilty of a felony or at least two misdemeanors.

It is important to remember that foreign nationals present in the U.S. from designated countries do not automatically receive TPS – they have to register for it during a specific registration period and pay all required fees. An individual’s previous immigration status or previous orders of removal have no effect on their eligibility to register for TPS. Individuals eligible for TPS are effectively protected from deportation proceedings for the duration of the designation.

What Rights Does TPS Grant Qualifying Foreign Nationals?

Foreign nationals who qualify for and successfully apply for TPS gain the following benefits:

  • Protection from deportation proceedings
  • Ability to obtain an employment authorization document (EAD), i.e. they may legally work in the United States
  • May be granted permission to travel abroad and return to the U.S.
  • They cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security due to their immigration status

Keep in mind that the above benefits are temporary and last only as long as the TPS designation is active. TPS beneficiaries are also not eligible for public assistance programs. Once the TPS designation ends, TPS recipients return to the immigration status they held before receiving TPS – with the exception of those who have successfully changed their immigration status after receiving TPS. For example, undocumented immigrants in the United States who become TPS beneficiaries will go back to having undocumented status at the end of the TPS designation period and may be subject to deportation.

Does TPS Offer a Path to Obtaining a Green Card or Citizenship?

There is no pathway for foreign nationals with TPS to gain lawful permanent resident status (a green card) or U.S. citizenship. However, TPS recipients who have legally entered the country and are eligible for permanent residence may apply for an adjustment of status using the standard USCIS forms and procedures. TPS recipients who have entered the United States without inspection are not eligible to apply for permanent residence. Despite various appellate court rulings to the contrary, the Department of Homeland Security’s stated position is that TPS beneficiaries who have entered the country without inspections are not eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status. They would have to leave the U.S. and apply from abroad via consular processing, but doing so would trigger an automatic 10-year re-entry ban as a penalty for entering the United States without inspection in the first place. Some TPS recipients may be eligible for a process called advance parole, where they get permission from USCIS to travel abroad and re-enter the United States, where they can then apply for adjustment of status from within the U.S.

It is a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to see what options are available for TPS recipients to obtain lawful permanent residency.

For an up-to-date list of TPS designated countries, please visit:
https://www.justice.gov/eoir/temporary-protected-status

For the latest TPS related bulletins from USCIS, please visit:
https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status