When certain emergencies arise in another country , the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can designate that country’s citizens, if they are already present in United States, as eligible for “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS).
TPS is a temporary designation that allows its beneficiaries to live and work in the U.S. and travel in and out of the U.S. for the duration of the emergency without fear of being placed into removal proceedings. This is true whether you entered illegally or overstayed a visa or other permitted form of entry.
The U.S. usually authorizes TPS in situations of upheaval due to natural disasters (such as hurricanes or earthquakes), an outbreak of disease, or armed conflicts that have made it unsafe to return.
To see whether your country is on the list of TPS designees, as well as the valid registration periods, you can visit the Temporary Protected Status page of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. As of early 2020, the following nations are designated for TPS:
It is not enough to merely be a citizen of a designated nation to be eligible for TPS. You must submit an application to USCIS within the advertised initial or late registration periods and meet a number of other eligibility requirements:
It’s also important to note that if your native country has been designated a TPS nation because of violent conflict or political turmoil, you might have a basis upon which to apply for asylum. So if you have been persecuted or have a credible fear of persecution based on your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, applying for asylum might, in the long-term, be a better option than applying for TPS.
However, if you need to work immediately, you should first apply for TPS, as you won’t be able to get a work permit for a long time after submitting your asylum application. For more on applying for asylum, see Nolo's articles on Asylum & Refugee Status.