Filling Out Form I-821 for TPS

Line-by-line instructions on how to fill out Form I-821, Application for TPS.

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Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration (and work authorization) status for the nationals of nations where conditions are so poor that the people cannot be expected to presently return home. For additional information about which citizens are TPS-eligible and how to apply, see Nolo’s section “Getting Temporary Protected Status (TPS).”

The application process involves filling out Forms I-821, “Application for Temporary Protected Status,” and I-765, Application for Work Authorization. This article covers filling out Form I-821. (Please note that you will also need to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, along with your application for TPS, even if you are not planning to work. For instructions on completing this form, see “Filling Out Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.”)

Form I-821, instructions, and list of filing fees are available on the I-821 page of the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Services (USCIS) website (www.uscis.gov).

Provide Your Personal Information

Part 1, “Type of application”: If this is your first TPS application, check Box “a.” If you are renewing or reregistering for TPS, check Box “b.”

Part 2, “Information about you”: This section is mostly self-explanatory. Completely provide identification details such as your name, U.S. mailing address, gender, marital status, birth date, and place of birth, residence, and citizenship. For the questions about “Your Current Immigration Status,” you will need to let USCIS know whether you are legally present in the U.S. or “out of status,” as well as whether you have ever been in U.S. removal proceedings. If you are out of status or have ever been in removal proceedings, you may still be eligible, but you should consult an attorney before applying.

Part 3, “Information about your spouse and children”: Again, these questions are self-explanatory. Enter identification details for your spouse (and former spouses) and children, if any. When filling out this or any USCIS form, it is important to NEVER leave a question blank, but instead write “N/A” for not applicable or “none” when a question doesn’t apply to you.

Provide Information to Show You Are Eligible

Part 4, “Eligibility standards”: These yes or no questions will determine whether or not you are eligible for TPS. It is also important to provide truthful and accurate information here. In many cases, the penalty for lying on a U.S. government document is much harsher than it would be if you revealed criminal convictions or immigration violations. (But again, you should see an attorney for a full analysis.)

Question 1. Nationality and Date Entered the United States. These questions appear simple but are important because you must be a national of a TPS-eligible country and have been physically present on the effective date for your country as well as continuously present since the date that was specified (and provide evidence backing all of this up). To see the dates that apply for your country, go to USCIS’s “Temporary Protected Status” page and click on your country’s name.

Question 2. Eligibility and Asylum Bars. You will be asked about your criminal history, immigration violations, medical problems, and other issues. You are asked these questions in order to determine whether you are eligible for TPS, are not subject to the mandatory asylum bars, and are “admissible” to the United States. If you need to answer “yes” to any of these questions you must attach a separate piece of paper explaining the circumstances of your situation. Write your name, the question number, and your alien registration number (if applicable) at the top of each sheet of paper. If a waiver is available for your situation, you will need to USCIS Form I-601 along with your TPS application. See “How to Prepare Form I-601 to Request a Waiver of Admissibility.”

Question 2a. Criminal Eligibility for TPS. If you have been convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors, you will not be eligible for TPS and should not submit Form I-821. If you don’t know whether your conviction qualifies as a felony or misdemeanor, you should consult with an attorney before submitting this or any application to USCIS.

Question 2b. Asylum Bars and National Security Questions. If you answer yes to these questions, you will not be eligible for TPS. You will be asked if you ever persecuted others on account of one of the five protected grounds for asylum. You will also be asked whether or not you have been convicted of a “particularly serious” crime or a “serious nonpolitical crime” outside of the United States and whether you are a threat to national security. USCIS wants to know if you have been convicted of a violent crime or a crime involving moral turpitude or if you are a danger to the well-being of U.S. citizens.

Question 2c. Drug Traffickers, Espionage, Terrorism, Totalitarian Parties, Again, a “yes” answer to any of these questions will render you ineligible for TPS. There are no waivers available for anyone who is a drug trafficker, involved with spying or terrorist activities, or a member of the Communist or Nazi Party.

Question 2d. Arrests, Citations, Plea Bargains, and Pardons. Answering “yes” to this question does not mean that your application will be denied. You will, however, need to explain the circumstances of any arrests, citations, or pleading “no contest” to any criminal indictment (except for traffic tickets). Make sure you fully explain the circumstances surrounding your arrest and the final outcome. Even if you were under the age of 18, your case was dismissed, or if you accepted community service or rehabilitation in lieu of a fine or imprisonment, you will need to answer “yes” and explain your answer fully.

Questions 2e-2o. Admissibility Questions. You will be asked questions about whether you have ever asserted diplomatic immunity from prosecution, engaged in prostitution, have ever been in removal proceedings, have assisted others in evading U.S. immigration laws, have a communicable disease or a violent mental or physical health disorder, are a drug addict, entered as a stowaway, engaged in immigration fraud, accompanied a deported person, detained a U.S. citizen child outside of the U.S., or practice polygamy. While a waiver is available in some circumstances for some of these acts, you will need to complete Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility and should consult an experienced immigration attorney for help.

Question 2p. Aggravated Crime and Persecution. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you will not be eligible for TPS.

Questions 2q-2t. Involvement in Foreign Police, Prison, and Military Units. A “yes” answer to some of these questions is not necessarily a bar to receiving TPS, but you will need to be diligent about providing information to USCIS about these activities. It will depend on the conditions in your country in many instances. For example, if your nation was designated TPS because of a natural disaster, your involvement in the police or military will likely not matter. However, if TPS was designated due to violent political upheaval, USCIS wants to know whether or not you were involved in the conflict or persecuted others. Many applicants for TPS who have served in a foreign military or police unit have successfully received immigration benefits. However, if you unlawfully detained, interrogated or persecuted others, you will not be granted TPS.

Part 5, “Signature”: If you are fluent in English, check the first box and certify that you understand all your questions, instructions, and the answers you have given. If you received help with the application from someone who is fluent in English, write your native language in the space provided and check the second box. Sign and date the application and provide a phone number where you can be reached.

Part 6, “Interpreter’s statement”: Your interpreter must sign here if you checked the second box in Part 5. Make sure that your interpreter is fluent in both your native language and English! You are responsible for your answers to every question in your application.

Part 7, “Preparer’s statement”: If someone else (such as an attorney) prepared this form for you, he or she must complete this section. Otherwise, leave it blank.

Part 8, “Checklist”: Check each box here to ensure you have a complete application packageSee below for more information on what to provide along with Form I-821.

After you have completed the application, make a copy for your files. If you are reregistering for TPS, you may be able to file online. Where you will mail your application depends on your state of residence and country of origin. Consult the I-821 page of the USCIS website for a mailing address and a list of current filing fees.

Checklist for Filing Application for TPS:

Here are the items you will need to assemble for your TPS application:

  • Form I-821
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization and required supporting documentation
  • Form I-601, Application for Waiver of the Grounds of Admissibility and required supporting documentation (only required if you answered “yes” to questions 2e, 2f, 2g, 2h, 2i, 2j, 2k, 2l, 2m, 2n, or 2o) with the appropriate filing fee ($585 as of early 2014) or a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver
  • Filing fees or Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. You only need to submit a fee for Form I-821 and biometrics if you are initially registering, but you will need to pay a fee to renew your work permit. The fees vary depending on age and whether or not you are requesting an actual work permit card ($0-$515 as of early 2014; but check for the latest on the Forms page of the USCIS website).
  • Supporting documents, including:  
    • Identity or Nationality Evidence. Provide a copy of all the pages of your passport or copies of your birth certificate and a photo ID or your national ID card. If you do not have any of these, you may submit secondary evidence such as a religious, school or medical records or affidavits from friends and family members, but expect to be interviewed regarding your eligibility.
    • Date of Entry Evidence. Provide a copy of I-94 Arrival/Departure record, or copies of immigration stamps on your passport if available. Otherwise, travel itineraries and receipts can work as well. Remember that you need to have been present in the U.S. on the date TPS was designated (or redesignated) for your country.
    • Continuous Residence Evidence. You will need to submit evidence showing that you continuously resided in the U.S. during the advertised period. Such evidence includes records and pay stubs, rent receipts and leases, utility bills, school records, and affidavits from officials who can attest to your U.S. residence.
    • Evidence Showing Good Cause for Late Application. If you are filing your first application for TPS late, you will need to show that during the registration period you were in another valid U.S. immigration status, granted another form of immigration relief, or that an application for immigration relief or adjustment was pending with USCIS. You must also file within 60 days of that condition ending. Submit evidence of this such as a visa, order from the immigration judge, or USCIS receipt notice. If you are renewing your TPS late, you should provide evidence that you were unable or unaware that you needed to file.

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