Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is not guaranteed to last forever. If the U.S. government decides it's okay for you (and others) to return to your home country, it can end your TPS. Without TPS, you will have to leave the United States unless you have, or can get, some other legal immigration status or permission to stay. This article will tell you about the ways you can potentially stay.
First of all, you can stay in the U.S. if you have, in addition to your TPS, some other legal immigration status or permission to stay. When you got your TPS, you didn't have to give up any other status you had, and if you got some other status while you already had TPS, you didn't have to give up your TPS. You could have both at the same time. So, if your TPS ends, you still have the other status, as long as it hasn't ended also.
An example would be someone who applied for asylum before or after she got TPS and is still waiting for a decision on her asylum application. If her TPS ends while she is still waiting, she can remain in the United States legally until she gets a decision on her asylum application.
Another example would be an "F-1" student who also has TPS. If his TPS ends while he is still in school, he can continue his studies in F-1 immigration status.
If you don't have some other legal immigration status or permission to stay when your TPS ends, you will need to find one in order to stay in the United States. The ways to stay legal are discussed below.
If you need asylum in the United States because you fear persecution in your home country, you might be eligible to apply for asylum. (See Asylum or Refugee Status: Who Is Eligible?) As soon as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your asylum application, you are legally entitled to stay in the United States until USCIS makes a decision on it.
One year after applying, if USCIS hasn't made a decision on your application, you are eligible to obtain a permit to work legally in the United States. If USCIS approves your asylum application, you can stay in the U.S. (with work permission) until it's safe for you to go home. If you want to become a permanent resident of the United States, you can apply for a green card after you've had asylum status for one year.
You might not be eligible to apply for asylum if you wait too long after your TPS expires to apply, or if you were in the United States for more than a year before you got your TPS. (See Can I Still Apply for Asylum After the One-Year Filing Deadline?)
There are many "nonimmigrant" (temporary) immigration statuses in the United States, including "F-1" student and the various work-related statuses, such as "E," "H-1B," and "O." If you are eligible for one of those statuses, you might be able to apply to change your status without leaving the United States.
Many nonimmigrant statuses require an employer to petition for you. You should consult with an immigration lawyer to see if a change is possible.
One of the roadblocks for TPS holders to change status is that currently, USCIS doesn't think a grant of TPS is "admission" to the United States, and you must have been admitted to the United States in order to change status. However, some federal courts have disagreed with USCIS and the matter is on its way to the Supreme Court in mid-2021.
If you qualify for a nonimmigrant status but for some reason you are not eligible to change your status from within the United States, you might be able to leave, obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas, and return to resume your life in the United States. Definitely talk with an immigration lawyer before leaving the United States, however, to make sure you can get back in.
There are also legal nonimmigrant statuses for certain victims of crime who are assisting law enforcement ("U") and human trafficking ("T"). You can apply for those after your TPS expires whether you were ever lawfully admitted to the United States or not.
There are several ways to become a permanent resident of the United States. The main ones are through sponsorship by a close family member or through employment, which usually requires an employer to sponsor you. (See Green Card Qualification.)
If you are eligible for permanent residence in the United States, you might be able to "adjust" your status from TPS to permanent resident without having to leave the United States. Consult with an immigration lawyer to see whether adjustment is possible.
Adjustment also requires that you were lawfully admitted to the United States, so you might run into the same problem discussed above with regard to changing status without a lawful "admission." One solution for current TPS holders living in states where a grant of TPS is not considered an admission is to leave the United States under a grant of "advance parole" (permission to return). When they come back, they have the legal admission required to adjust status. This strategy has risks, so consult with an immigration lawyer before trying it.
If you qualify for permanent residence but for some reason are not eligible to adjust your status from within the United States, you might be able to leave, obtain an "immigrant visa" at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas, and return to resume your life in the United States. Always talk with an immigration lawyer before leaving the United States, however, to make sure you can get back in.
You might have been living in the United States under a grant of TPS for a long time without knowing that you are actually a U.S. citizen. If your parents or grandparents ever spent any time in the United States or in the U.S. military before you were born, or if you know that either one of your parents became a U.S. citizen at some point, speak with an immigration lawyer to see whether you might already be a U.S. citizen.
If you're not already a U.S. citizen, usually you have to become a permanent resident before you can apply for U.S. citizenship. However, if you were ever in the U.S. military, check with an immigration lawyer to see if you might be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
If you have no legal status after your TPS ends, and you choose to stay in the United States, the U.S. government may try to deport you. If an immigration judge orders you deported, you'll have to leave eventually, unless your home country won't accept you.
But it's possible to ask the judge not to order you deported in the first place, and instead give you the right to continue living in the United States. (See Possible Defenses to Deportation of an Undocumented Alien.)
If you're afraid you'll be harmed if you return to your home country, you can ask the judge for asylum, for something similar called "withholding of removal," or for protection under the Convention Against Torture. Of these, only asylum allows you to continue to live in the United States permanently (if you apply for permanent residence a year later). You'd probably be able to live in the United States a long time if you were granted withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture, but the government could find some other country to take you and make you leave the United States at any time.
If you've been in the United States for at least ten years and you have a spouse, parent, or child who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, you can ask the judge for "cancellation of removal." If the judge grants it, you won't be deported, but even better, you will become a permanent resident. You have to show the judge that it if you were deported, your relative would suffer "exceptional and extremely unusual" hardship. That's hard to show, as described in, Green Card Through Cancellation of Removal (Non-LPR): Who Qualifies?
Some people who might qualify for permanent residence through cancellation of removal are tempted to surrender themselves for deportation just so they can ask a judge for permanent residence that way. This is an extremely risky thing to do, because it's difficult to convince a judge that your relative will suffer "exceptional and extremely unusual" hardship without you. Speak with an immigration lawyer before trying to get yourself placed into removal (deportation) proceedings.