Since the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990, it has been in the purview of first the Attorney General, later the Secretary of Homeland Security, to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to nationals of countries which have experienced significant natural disasters, ongoing armed conflicts, or other conditions that make it dangerous for nationals abroad to return home. As of this writing, there are 10 countries whose nationals receive TPS, but discussion in recent months has underlined the precarious nature of such a status. If you are under TPS now, it is critical that you understand how and when that status is granted and when it can be rescinded.
Requirements for TPS
Once the Secretary of Homeland Security has granted TPS to the nationals of a specific country, those people who are currently physically present in the United States may apply for benefits. However, mere physical presence is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements for status.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) states four main criteria you must meet to qualify. They are:
While “brief, casual and innocent” trips out of the country are considered acceptable, any stay longer than approximately a week is enough to break a ‘continuous residence.’ There are other factors that can be immediate grounds for refusal of Temporary Protected Status as well, such as having two misdemeanors or a felony on your record, being inadmissible under the relevant sections of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA), and being subject to a bar for past conduct like participating in oppression.
TPS Does Not Grant Legal Status
If you receive TPS, you are generally permitted to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and support yourself during this period. However, it is imperative to understand that TPS expires if the Secretary of Homeland Security decides enough has changed in that country not to renew, and there is nothing you may do to change that. If you were undocumented before TPS was granted to nationals of your country, you will become undocumented again if you are still in the U.S. when TPS is lifted.
For example, in the wake of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Rwandans were granted TPS from approximately June 1995 to the end of 1997. Toward the end of 1997, it was determined that the conditions in Rwanda had changed enough so that nationals abroad could safely return home, so TPS was lifted. Any Rwandan who had not had lawful status before being granted TPS reverted back to that after the designation expired, with all the attendant legal problems like inadmissibility. As of this writing, Haiti’s TPS designation has recently been extended to January 2018, but all recipients must re-register and re-apply for their EADs. Because of this, many are already laboring under the misapprehension that they will have some kind of status after TPS expires, but this is not the case.
Ask an Immigration Attorney for Help
TPS is a humanitarian status granted when the situation in a country is too volatile for its nationals to safely return. It is a temporary courtesy, not a grant of residency or citizenship, and if you misunderstand or are misinformed you may wind up being barred or even deported. The Chicago immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help answer your questions and suggest a suitable path forward for you and your family. Call our offices today to set up a free consultation.
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