What's Better: TPS or Asylum

If you are eligible for both asylum and temporary protected status (TPS) in the United States, you might want to apply for both.

Updated by , Attorney

If you are a foreign national currently in the United States and considering applying for asylum here, and your home country has been designated for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) by the U.S. government, you can apply for either or both. However, as discussed below, you should act quickly, and make the TPS application your number one priority.

Should You Apply for Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.?

TPS recognizes that for citizens of countries in the midst of a national disaster, civil strife, war, or something similar, it's unsafe to return home. That's why the U.S. government offers this short-term remedy. You should apply for TPS as soon possible as long as you meet the eligibility requirements, described in Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Who is Eligible?

Once your TPS application is received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your time spent in the U.S. will no longer be considered illegal, even if you entered unlawfully or your permitted stay under a visa has run out. That will allow you to live free of the fear that you will have a run-in with immigration or other law enforcement authorities. It will also help you if you ever become eligible for a U.S. green card based on a category other than asylum. For most types of green cards, accruing unlawful presence of six months or more in the U.S. leads to inadmissibility issues. But if you apply for TPS within 180 days (or approximately six months) of your I-94 expiration date, you will not be subject to the three-year time bar for unlawful presence in the United States.

Although TPS is a temporary immigration status, it also will allow you to legally obtain employment in the United States. Applicants for asylum are not allowed to work immediately after submitting their application to USCIS unless they already have a valid work permit. They will be allowed to work only after their asylum application has been approved or they've waited 365 days or more with no decision or outstanding, applicant-caused delays on their asylum application.

They must also meet the other eligibility criteria described in How to Apply for a Work Permit While Awaiting an Asylum Decision.

Should You Apply for Asylum in the U.S.?

Many TPS recipients are also eligible for asylum due to political turmoil in their home countries that causes them to fear persecution based on race, nationality, religion, social group or political opinion. Others, however, cannot show that they have a personal reason to fear persecution—they were just caught in the middle of a dangerous situation. If you can make a good case for asylum, you should request this as well, as it leads to greater long-term benefits.

Unfortunately, you are under a time crunch when applying for asylum. Ideally, you should apply before the one-year anniversary of your arrival to the United States. Otherwise, you will have a higher burden of proof when convincing USCIS to approve your asylum application, and you might not be eligible for a work permit.

If granted asylum, you can apply for permanent residence (a "green card") one year after the date of approval. This will give you significantly more benefits than TPS.

For More Information and Help

To learn more about asylum, visit Applying for Asylum Status. And for a personal analysis of your immigration situation and help in filling out applications, gathering documents, and representing you before U.S. immigration authorities, consult an experienced immigration attorney. Fortunately, asylum is an area where you'll find a lot of help from volunteer attorneys or nonprofit (charitable) organizations serving immigrants and refugees.

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