If your home country is a dangerous place, then you may qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States. In certain unique circumstances, the United States government will award this special status to immigrants in the United States from certain countries.
If you are currently in the United States and your home country is involved in armed conflict, for example, then you may be awarded Temporary Protected Status in the United States. The U.S. government may also award TPS for environmental disasters or severe epidemics – say, if there was an ebola outbreak or earthquake in your home country.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States and how it works.
How Does Temporary Protected Status Work?
Temporary Protected Status is available to certain individuals who cannot return to their home country safely. If you are currently visiting the United States or living in the United States, then you may qualify for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS can allow you to remain in the United States for an indefinite period of time while your home country recovers.
Some of the situations where temporary protected status may be awarded include:
- Armed conflicts that are ongoing or continuous
- Environmental disasters
- Epidemics or outbreaks
- Other extraordinary and temporary conditions
Few countries receive TPS. After analyzing the situation in a particular country, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may choose to award TPS to a particular country.
If TPS is deemed necessary for a particular country, then any nationals of that country in the United States are permitted to remain in the United States until the country recovers. Eventually, at some point in the future, DHS will remove TPS from the country as conditions improve, at which point the foreign nationals must return home (or seek a different immigrant visa to remain in the United States).
Which Countries Have Temporary Protected Status?
As of 2019, all of the following countries have Temporary Protected Status according to the United States Department of Homeland Security:
- El Salvador
- South Sudan
These countries are on the TPS list for various reasons. Certain countries – including Syria and Yemen – have been plagued by war in recent years. Other countries – like Haiti and Nepal – were severely affected by natural disasters. Some countries have particularly high rates of murder and violence.
You can view the full, updated list of TPS countries at the USCIS official website here. USCIS also explains the specific reason for each country’s inclusion on the list.
Countries that were previously on the TPS list but are no longer include Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Temporary Protected Status Requirements
To qualify for Temporary Protected Status, you must meet a certain number of requirements, including:
- You must be a national of a country on the TPS list, or a person with no nationality who has previously lived in a TPS country
- You must file for TPS during the registration or re-registration period or be otherwise eligible for late filing
- You must have been in the United State already when your country was added to the TPS list
- You must continuously live in the United States from the time your country received TPS status to the time you applied for it; when you apply or re-register for TPS, you must inform USCIS of all absences from the United States, although the law allows an exception for “brief, casual and innocent departures from the United States”
Certain individuals may be ineligible for TPS status even if they meet the above requirements or would otherwise qualify for TPS. You may be ineligible if:
- You are convicted of a felony or more than two misdemeanors in the United States
- You are inadmissible to the United States due to security concerns, including non-waivable criminal and security-related reasons
- You are subject to any of the mandatory bars to asylum, including participating in the persecution of another individual or engaging in or inciting terrorist activity
- You failed to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the United States requirements; say, if you left the United States after your country received TPS but before you applied for TPS yourself
- You failed to re-register for TPS as required without due cause
How to Apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
Applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) requires you to submit supporting documents and other evidence to USCIS. Your documents must prove that you meet the requirements listed above.
Here’s the general process for applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) with USCIS:
Step 1) File the Temporary Protected Status Form
TPS applicants must file a special form called Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status. Some applicants also choose to attach form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization, which allows you to start working immediately if your citizenship is approved. Forms and all applicable documents must be submitted to USCIS.
If you believe you may be inadmissible to the United States (say, if you have a criminal record or other reasons for being denied), then you may also wish to file Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds on Inadmissibility.
Step 2) Attach Supporting Documents
You will be required to attach supporting documents to your application, including documents proving you are a resident of a TPS list country.
Proof of Identity and Nationality
First, you will need to prove you are a national of the designated TPS country. You can do this by submitting:
- A copy of your passport from the TPS list country
- A copy of your birth certificate with a photo identifying you
- A copy of a national identity document with a photo or fingerprint issued by an embassy or consulate of your country in the United States
Other evidence proving your identity and nationality can include:
- Documents proving your nationality, including a naturalization certificate that does not necessarily need to include a photo or fingerprint
- A baptismal certificate proving your nationality or the nationality of your parents
- Copies of school records or medical records from a TPS list country
- Copies of immigration documents proving your identity or nationality
- Affidavits from friends or family proving your identity or nationality, including affidavits confirming your place and date of birth
Proof of Date of Entry
The United States also needs to verify that you entered the United States before your country was added to the TPS list. To prove this, you may provide:
- A copy of your passport
- Form I-94, Arrival/Departure record for the United States
- Copies of documents from your stay in the United States, including lease agreements, receipts, employment contracts, and other evidence
Proof of Continuous Residence
Finally, to qualify for TPS, you must prove that you have been in the United States continuously since your country was added to the TPS list. You cannot travel back to your home country after it was added to the TPS list and then return to the United States seeking Temporary Protected Status. To prove continuous residence, you may need to provide the following documents:
- Lease agreement or receipts, including utility bills, receipts of hotels, or other evidence
- Employment records
- School letters, including proof of admission and studies at a U.S. school
- Medical or hospital records proving you or a family member received treatment in the United States
- Affidavits from an organization – like a church – that confirms you have been in the United States continuously for a certain period of time
Step 3) Submit the Application
Once you have collected all of the evidence above, you can submit the petition to USCIS. If USCIS accepts your petition, then you will receive a receipt notice. If your petition is rejected, then USCIS will list the reasons for the rejection and explain whether or not you can re-apply. Typically, it takes about 3 weeks to process the application.
Step 4) Biometrics Collection
USCIS might require additional documents after receiving your TPS application, including biometric details like fingerprints and photographs. If USCIS requires this information, then they will send you a notice. Generally, any TPS applicants over age 14 will need to apply biometric data like a photograph, fingerprints, or a signature.
USCIS will ask TPS applicants to go to an Application Support Center (ASC), where your biometrics will be used to verify your identity, confirm your country of residence, and complete a background check. Your EAD may also be issued at an ASC.
You may need to bring all of the following documents to your ASC appointment, including:
- A document proving your identity
- A photograph that complies with U.S. visa photo requirements
- ASC appointment confirmation notice from USCIS
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if you do not already have one
You can also request to reschedule the appointment if you cannot make the appointment time stated on your USCIS letter.
Step 5) Wait for a Decision from USCIS
Eventually, USCIS will make a decision on your Temporary Protected Status application, choosing to either approve or deny your application. Your EAD will also be approved or denied (if you requested an EAD).
TPS Application Fees
Filing a Temporary Protected Status application with form I-821 will cost $50. However, if you are merely re-registering for TPS, then you will not need to pay any fees.
If USCIS asks you to provide biometrics, then you may also be required to pay a biometrics fee of $85 that covers the cost of collecting your fingerprints, photos, and other biometrics data. Your EAD may also come with additional fees.
If you cannot afford to pay TPS application fees, then you can request a fee waiver from USCIS. The fee waiver form is form I-912, Application for Fee Waiver. You will need to include a letter explaining why you cannot afford to pay for your TPS application fee.
How Long Does My TPS Last?
Depending on the situation of your country, your individual TPS will be valid for no fewer than 6 months and no longer than 18 months.
After your TPS period, you can re-register or extend your TPS.
Can I Leave the United States While Under TPS?
If you have Temporary Protected Status, then you will need a travel authorization document to leave the United States – even temporarily and briefly. You can apply for travel authorization by completing form I-131, Application for Travel Document and submitting it to USCIS.
Ultimately, Temporary Protected Status is a unique type of status extended to nationals of certain countries experiencing temporary disasters, wars, or other dangerous situations. If you are in the United States while your country is added to the TPS list, then you may qualify for Temporary Protected Status.