What is temporary protected status (TPS)?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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Temporary protected status (TPS) is an immigration status for foreign nationals residing in the United States whose home countries are temporarily unsafe or overly dangerous. Situations that can make a country unsafe and lead to temporary protected status include: wars; political turmoil; and earthquakes, floods, or other natural disasters.
In addition to individual TPS, if conditions are bad enough, entire countries can be designated such that all natives of that country will be granted TPS upon application. Note that TPS differs from asylum in that asylum relates more to your personal situation, while TPS relates to conditions in a country or region, not necessarily any one person.
The process for applying for TPS is also different from applying for asylum. To request TPS you must submit two forms: I-821 and I-765. The I-821 form is the application for temporary protected status. It must be filed during the time that your homeland is considered a designated country. If the crisis ends before you file your application, your request for temporary protected status will usually be denied. The I-765 form is an employment authorization request. You should submit this form even if you do not intend to work.
General requirements for temporary protected status are: You must have been a continuous resident of the United States during the time the unsafe conditions arose in your country; you must submit both completed forms and the required fee (or fee waiver form); and, you must not be considered a security risk to the United States.
Once your request for TPS is approved, you may remain in the U.S. temporarily as long as your native country continues to be a designated country. Recently designated countries include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
If and when conditions improve in your homeland, your country will be removed from the designated list of countries, and you must then return to your homeland. If you would like to extend your time in the United States through a different type of status, such as asylum, you must submit your request before your temporary protected status expires. If you have questions about filing requirements, deadlines, or the best alternatives available to you for remaining in the United States, you should consult with an experienced immigration law attorney.