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On November 8, 2013, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful and deadly storms ever recorded, leaving thousands of Filipinos dead and adversely affecting millions more. While international and local relief and restoration efforts are underway, Philippines citizens who are currently in the U.S. may wonder if they can stay here without risking deportation or any future immigration consequences.
The short answer? Not yet, but there is a good possibility that immigration relief is on the way. In certain situations, the U.S. government may designate the citizens of certain countries as eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This status allows its beneficiaries to live and work in the U.S. if their nation is suffering upheaval due to emergency conditions and frees beneficiaries from worries about being deported or overstaying their visas. In a very similar situation, Haitian citizens were made eligible for TPS due to the devastating effects of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Many experts and commentators are already buzzing that a TPS designation will help the situation in the Philippines immensely by providing a safe haven for displaced Filipinos. TPS designation will also give Filipinos the opportunity to work in order to provide financial support to friends and family members affected by the typhoon.
The first step in obtaining a TPS designation is a request from the foreign government asking the U.S. government to protect its citizens currently within the United States. After a request is made, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary will consult with the Department of State and other government officials and decide whether or not to grant the request.
If approved, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will subsequently publish information about how Philippines citizens can apply for TPS. TPS is initially granted for six to 18 months, but may be extended if emergency conditions continue.
TPS beneficiaries must fulfill certain criteria such as maintaining physical presence and continuous residence in the U.S., meeting certain admissibility requirements, and keeping a criminal record free of serious convictions. To learn more about who is currently eligible for TPS, see Nolo’s article “Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Who Is Eligible.” And stay tuned to Nolo for more immigration updates on this situation as it develops.
Also, in the meantime, you'll want to see the USCIS press release, "USCIS Reminds Filipino Nationals Impacted by Typhoon Haiyan of Available Immigration Relief Measures."