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Everything you should know about the TPS Visa for Temporary Protected Status

You may be eligible for Temporary Protected Status if natural disasters, political turmoil, and other emergencies strike and returning home safely isn't an option.

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When natural disasters, political turmoil, and other emergencies strike, returning safely to your home country may not be an option. In these circumstances, the United States Department of Homeland Security may grant nationals of certain affected countries Temporary Protected Status (TPS) which means that they cannot be removed from the U.S. and can obtain an employment authorization document. 

What is a TPS visa?

A TPS visa is a temporary immigration status intended for foreign nationals who are visiting the U.S.  and can’t return to their home country. The Secretary of Homeland Security can designate a country as qualifying for TPS when certain conditions are met that prevent its nationals from safely returning home or when the country may cannot adequately handling the return of its citizens.

Examples that may require TPS designation 

One or more of the following reasons usually designates a country for TPS:

  • Continuing armed conflict such as a civil war 

  • An environmental disaster like an earthquake or hurricanes, or an epidemic 

  • Other extraordinary yet temporary conditions

What happens when a foreign national is eligible for TPS? 

If you qualify for TPS, you are typically required to submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once USCIS grants your TPS, you cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of your U.S. immigration status and you will also receive authorization to work in the U.S. In some cases, TPS beneficiaries may also request advance parole to obtain permission to travel abroad and return to the U.S through a separate application.

TPS benefits including work authorization typically last until the status is removed, including the authorization to work. While TPS status does not lead to permanent resident status, you can still apply for nonimmigrant status or file for an adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition.

Who is eligible for TPS?

To qualify for TPS, you must:

  • Be a resident of a foreign country designated for TPS or have resided in the designated country over a prolonged period of time 

  • Have been continuously physically present (CPP) in the U.S. since the TPS designation or re-designation of your home country

  • Have been continuously residing (CR) in the U.S. since your home country received a TPS designation. You may also be required to continuously reside in the U.S. for several days or months before the TPS designation of your home country.

In some cases, the U.S. government may provide an exception to the CPP or CR requirement, such as if you left the U.S. for a short vacation before the TPS designation of your home country. When applying or re-registering for TPS, you may notify USCIS of all departures from the U.S. in order to help USCIS determine if you qualify for an exception.

Who is not eligible for TPS?

Specific cases can interfere with a foreign individual’s eligibility for TPS, such as the following:

  • You have been charged with a felony or two or more misdemeanors in the U.S. and have been convicted of the charges

  • You are subject to mandatory bars of asylum, such as participating in or engaging in the persecution of another individual or conducting terrorist activity

  • You are inadmissible as a foreign national under the grounds cited in INA section 212(a), such as security-related or non-waivable criminal cases, diagnosis of a communicable disease, and violations of immigration law

  • You fail to meet the CPP and CR requirement in the U.S. (unless USCIS has granted an exception to your case)

  • You have previously been granted TPS, failed to re-register as required, and did not have good cause for failing to do so

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Countries currently designated for TPS

If you are a foreign national from one of the countries listed below, you may have the option to apply for TPS provided that you meet the eligibility requirements:

  • El Salvador

  • Haiti

  • Honduras

  • Nepal

  • Nicaragua

  • Somalia

  • Sudan

  • South Sudan

  • Syria

  • Yemen

For more information on the TPS designation for each country, you may visit the USCIS website.

How to apply for TPS visa status

Your country may have filing instructions that are specific to its TPS designation. You can find details on the USCIS link provided in the previous section. Otherwise, you may use the information provided below.

Forms

If you meet the above-mentioned eligibility requirements, you may apply for TPS visa status by filing Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status. 

In some cases, a foreign national may have relevant grounds for inadmissibility. If you wish to overturn an inadmissibility finding, submit Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, along with your request for TPS.

If you're filing TPS for the first time or re-registering and would like to work during your stay in the U.S, you can typically request a work permit through Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization, which you can attached to your Form I-821 application.

For TPS applications that are already approved, you may still apply for an employment authorization document (EAD). However, if you haven't submitted Form I-821 and you already know you'd like to work in the U.S, consider submitting Form I-765 at the same time you submit Form I-821.

You may download and print copies of Form I-821, Form I-601, and Form I-765 for free from USCIS by visiting their website. Alternatively, you may request for the forms to be mailed to you by calling 1-800-870-3676. 

Evidence

If you're filing your initial application for TPS, you may be asked to provide the following evidence to show that you qualify for TPS visa status:

  • Evidence of nationality. Examples may include a copy of your birth certificate and photo identification, a copy of your passport or any document that contains your photograph and/or fingerprints that was issued by your home country. Other types of supporting evidence that may be submitted include religious documents, school records, medical records, other immigration documents, or affidavits from credible sources. 

  • Evidence of the date you entered the U.S. This may include a copy of your stamped passport or an I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. 

  • Evidence that you have continuously resided in the U.S. Examples of evidence include records of your employment history, receipts of rent or utility bills under your name, school records, medical records and affidavits from credible officials who can attest to your identity and residence. 

Tips on completing Form I-821

All answers provided on Form I-821 should ideally be typed or printed legibly in black ink; stamped signatures aren’t typically allowed. Applicants 14 years of age or younger may have a parent or legal guardian sign for them. A legal guardian may also sign on behalf of a person with a mental disability. 

The filing fee(s) for Form I-821 can be paid through a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order. Applicants may also pay with a credit card by filing an additional form, Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. For checks, they may be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Regardless of your age and intent to work in the U.S., if you are submitting your first TPS application, you will be typically required to pay the Form I-821 filing fee which is $50. On the other hand, if you are re-registering for TPS, you won’t usually be charged a filing fee regardless of your age and whether you intend to work or not. You may, however, be charged for biometric services.

For more information on the filing fees, including the fees for additional forms and services, you can visit the USCIS website.

What happens after you file your TPS application? 

Determination for acceptance

USCIS usually reviews applications to determine if all the requested documents and fees have been provided. Once this is confirmed, the applicant may then be sent a notice of receipt to the provided address, along with a receipt number that may be used to check the application status online.

Request for biometrics

Once USCIS confirms it has received the application, foreign nationals over the age of 14 may be requested to provide a photo, fingerprints, or signature (or all three) during a biometrics service appointment. The applicant may receive the appointment notification for the service, which usually takes place at an Application Support Center (ASC).

If you have provided biometrics in the past, that information may be used for your TPS application. If biometrics services are required but USCIS has waived the collection, or your previous information is being used, you may be required to pay the $85 biometrics fee.

Application support center (ASC) appointment

During your biometric services appointment, you may be required to present the following:

  • Evidence of your identity and nationality that contains a photograph (e.g., a passport)

  • Notice that your application has been received by USCIS

  • The ASC appointment notice

  • Copy of your current EAD (if applicable)

If you’re unable to attend your ASC appointment, you may request that the appointment be rescheduled. To request for a new appointment, create a copy of the original appointment notice for your records then send back the original notice along with a request to reschedule. You may use the ASC address provided on your appointment notice for this.

Adjudication of your application

After receiving your application and providing USCIS with your biometric data, you usually await the agency’s final decision.

USCIS will inform you if your TPS application is approved, including your request for EAD, if relevant to your case. Successful applicants will receive the approval notice at their mailing address, including the EAD if the application for a work permit was also approved. If your request is denied, you may be given an opportunity to appeal the denial.

What happens after the application for TPS is approved?

Successful applicants for TPS visa status may enjoy benefits discussed previously for as long as the foreign national’s home country also retains its TPS designation; however, there are certain circumstances when you forfeit this status. 

If you are re-registering to maintain your TPS status and have already been granted an EAD, you won’t  usually have to re-apply for an EAD as you will typically receive a new EAD with valid dates along with your re-approved registration.

While you may be able to travel abroad with TPS, you will usually have to apply for travel authorization by filing Form I-131, the Application for Travel Document, for permission to travel outside of the country. Should you leave the country without a travel document, you may lose your TPS visa status and not be allowed to re-enter the U.S.

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