The process of applying for TPS protection can be daunting for foreign nationals who are facing emergency situations and upheaval in their home country. The following are some commonly asked questions and answers about TPS. For further information about this status, see the "Getting Temporary Protected Status (TPS)" page of Nolo’s website.
How long will I be able to stay in the United States with TPS?
The answer depends on the nature of the emergency situation in your country and the length of time for which DHS designates your native country TPS-eligible. The initial period provided is not less than six months and not more than 18 months, but DHS can extend this time if country conditions warrant it. As such, some TPS immigrants have been able to live and work in the U.S. for ten or more years, while others only for a year or two. To see the list of countries currently designated for TPS, visit USCIS’s TPS page.
What if I entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed my visa -- can I still apply for TPS?
Yes. While TPS approval is not a grant of amnesty (or forgiveness) for prior immigration offenses, you can still apply for and receive the benefits of TPS (including a work permit) if you entered or remained in the U.S. illegally.
Yet another compelling reason to apply for TPS is that once you are approved, your period of unlawful presence in the U.S. will be “tolled” or stopped. That means that the time spent in the United States while a TPS beneficiary will be considered lawful for the purposes of adjusting status and avoiding inadmissibility problems. (For further information, see “Consequences of Unlawful Presence in the U.S. -- Three- and Ten-Year Time Bars.”)
If I am granted TPS, am I then eligible to apply for a green card at a later date?
No. TPS is a temporary immigration status for people temporarily in the U.S., to protect them from having to return to an actively dangerous situation in their home country. Even if you were to live and work legally in the United States as a TPS beneficiary for many years, there is no route to permanent residence (i.e., a green card) that will follow simply from a grant of TPS.
However, you may now be, or later become eligible for a green card on some other basis. This could be, for example, because of marriage to a U.S. citizen, a job offer and sponsorship by a U.S. employer, or a grant of asylum. For more information about who can get a green card and what is required in order to apply for one, see the Nolo section on “How to Get a Green Card.”
If I am granted TPS and can legally work for a U.S. employer, can that employer, or another one, sponsor me for a green card?
Technically, yes, for many (but not all) types of jobs. But finding a willing employer may be difficult. It is a long and complicated process with a number of rules and regulations and requires a great deal of time and effort on the employer’s part.
Depending on your level of education and skills, there can often be a crowded waiting list for an available visa, and employers may have to obtain what’s known as “labor certification” to prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers available who can do the same job. For more on what your employer would have to undertake on your behalf, see “Procedures to Sponsor a Worker for a Green Card.”
Can I apply for another immigration benefit along with TPS or after my TPS application is approved?
Yes. And you should do so if you are eligible for a more lasting and established form of immigration relief, such as asylum, a green card through marriage or another family relationship to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or even a green card through the diversity visa lottery. Information about a number of immigration options can be found on Nolo’s “Immigration Law” home page. One of the benefits of TPS is that, if granted, you will receive your employment authorization document fairly quickly. So it is worthwhile to apply for TPS while you investigate the other immigration options that might be available to you.
Will I ever have to reapply or reregister for TPS?
Most likely, yes. If USCIS redesignates your nation for TPS and you want to remain in the United States, in order to maintain your status, you may have to reregister for TPS (and pay associated fees). You will need to use the same forms and procedures as you used to apply initially. However, sometimes USCIS will extend TPS beneficiaries’ employment authorization for a period of time so that it occurs automatically, without requiring applicants to reregister or pay additional fees.
Can I travel outside the U.S. while my application is awaiting a decision? Can I travel after my application is approved?
You can travel, but you may want to seek legal advice before leaving if you have ever been unlawfully present in the United States. If you have ever entered in the U.S. without authorization or remained past the expiration date of your visa or status, you may be deemed inadmissible when attempting to reenter -- and that's true even if you are a TPS beneficiary with advance parole (a travel document described below).
If you are sure that you will not be found inadmissible upon return and you wish to travel outside the U.S., the way to apply is by using USCIS Form I-131, Application for Travel Document. You will need to submit this form prior to departing. Check the box marked “I am applying for an advance parole document to allow me to return to the United States after temporary foreign travel” and include a copy of your grant of TPS or your TPS application receipt notice.
Once your advance parole is approved, you will remain in Temporary Protected Status upon your return. Without such approval, you would be considered to have abandoned your TPS. However, it will remain your responsibility to respond to all requests from USCIS, even when traveling, so you might want to have a friend or relative keep an eye on your mail.
Your travel outside the U.S. must be “brief, casual, and innocent.” You cannot resettle in another country or return to your home nation without jeopardizing your TPS status.
If my application for TPS is denied, can I appeal?
Yes, in most cases, as long as your case is not denied on criminal or national security grounds. You can file a Motion to Reconsider using Form I-290B, A Notice of Appeal or Motion. However, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney, who can advise you whether it is in your best interest to pursue an appeal and help you prepare a convincing case for one.