Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Designation, Eligibility

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) provides temporary relief to foreign nationals unable to return safely to their home countries, allowing them to stay and work in the U.S. during crises.


Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a crucial immigration designation in the United States that provides temporary relief to foreign nationals who are unable to return safely to their home countries due to extraordinary circumstances. These circumstances may include ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other temporary conditions that make it unsafe for individuals to return to their country of origin.

TPS has become increasingly relevant in the current legal landscape as global conflicts, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises continue to displace populations worldwide. This designation allows eligible individuals to remain in the United States temporarily, obtain work authorization, and potentially access certain other benefits while their home countries recover from the conditions that led to the TPS designation.

The concept of Temporary Protected Status was established by the Immigration Act of 1990, which added Section 244 to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This legislation was enacted in response to the need for a more flexible system to address humanitarian crises that did not fit neatly into existing refugee or asylum frameworks.

Prior to the creation of TPS, the United States had used various ad hoc measures to provide temporary protection to certain groups of foreign nationals. The formalization of TPS through legislation aimed to create a more standardized and transparent process for granting temporary humanitarian protection.

Applicable Laws and Regulations

The primary legal authority for Temporary Protected Status is found in Section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1254a). This statute outlines the criteria for TPS designation, eligibility requirements, and the rights and responsibilities of TPS beneficiaries.

Implementing regulations for TPS are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR § 244. These regulations provide detailed guidance on the application process, documentation requirements, and procedures for maintaining and terminating TPS designations.

Relevant Regulatory Bodies

The Secretary of Homeland Security is vested with the authority to designate a foreign country for TPS and to extend or terminate such designations. This authority is exercised in consultation with other government agencies, particularly the Department of State, which provides input on country conditions.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for administering the TPS program. This includes processing applications, conducting background checks, and issuing documentation to eligible individuals.

Key Components and Concepts

Designation Process

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a country for TPS based on one or more of the following conditions:

  1. Ongoing armed conflict that poses a serious threat to personal safety
  2. Environmental disaster (such as an earthquake, hurricane, or epidemic) that substantially disrupts living conditions
  3. Extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent nationals from returning safely

Designations are made through a formal process that includes publication in the Federal Register, specifying the basis for the designation and the period of designation.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for TPS, an individual must:

  1. Be a national of a country designated for TPS, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country
  2. File for TPS during the initial registration or re-registration period
  3. Have been continuously physically present in the United States since the effective date of the most recent designation
  4. Have been continuously residing in the United States since the date specified in the designation

Applicants must also meet certain admissibility requirements and must not be ineligible based on criminal history or other factors outlined in the INA.

Duration and Extensions

TPS designations are made for periods of 6 to 18 months. The Secretary of Homeland Security must review country conditions and determine whether to extend, redesignate, or terminate TPS for each country at least 60 days before the expiration of the current designation period.

Rights and Responsibilities

Rights of TPS Beneficiaries

Individuals granted TPS are:

  1. Not removable from the United States during the TPS period
  2. Eligible to obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  3. Eligible to obtain travel authorization

It's important to note that TPS does not lead to lawful permanent resident status (green card) and is considered a temporary benefit.

Responsibilities of TPS Beneficiaries

TPS beneficiaries must:

  1. Re-register during each re-registration period to maintain their status
  2. Inform USCIS of any changes of address
  3. Comply with all other requirements for maintaining TPS

Common Issues and Challenges

Uncertainty and Temporary Nature

One of the primary challenges faced by TPS beneficiaries is the temporary nature of the status. The uncertainty surrounding potential extensions or terminations can create significant stress and complicate long-term planning for individuals and families.

Transition to Other Immigration Statuses

While TPS provides temporary protection, it does not automatically lead to a permanent immigration status. Beneficiaries who wish to remain in the United States long-term must explore other immigration options, which can be complex and challenging.

Travel Restrictions

Although TPS beneficiaries may obtain travel authorization, leaving the United States can be risky. Re-entry is not guaranteed, and traveling to the country of TPS designation may jeopardize an individual's status.

Case Studies and Notable Examples

El Salvador TPS Designation

El Salvador was designated for TPS in 2001 following a series of earthquakes. This designation has been repeatedly extended, with the current extension valid through December 31, 2024. The case of El Salvador illustrates the long-term nature that some TPS designations can take on, as well as the complexities involved in determining when conditions have sufficiently improved to terminate the designation.

Afghanistan TPS Designation

In May 2022, Afghanistan was designated for TPS in response to the extraordinary and temporary conditions resulting from the Taliban takeover and ongoing armed conflict. This designation allows eligible Afghan nationals who have continuously resided in the United States since March 15, 2022, to apply for TPS. The Afghanistan designation demonstrates how TPS can be used to respond to rapidly evolving geopolitical situations.

Best Practices and Compliance Strategies

  1. Maintain accurate records of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States
  2. Stay informed about re-registration periods and other TPS-related announcements
  3. Promptly file for re-registration during designated periods
  4. Keep USCIS informed of any changes in address or other relevant circumstances
  5. Explore potential eligibility for other, more permanent immigration statuses
  6. Seek qualified legal assistance for complex cases or when facing challenges with TPS maintenance

Recent Developments and Proposed Changes

The TPS program has been subject to various legal challenges and policy changes in recent years. For example, attempts to terminate TPS designations for several countries were blocked by federal court orders, leading to extensions for countries including El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

Additionally, there have been legislative proposals to provide a path to permanent residency for long-term TPS holders, although these have not yet been enacted into law.

Resources for Further Information

For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on Temporary Protected Status, individuals should consult the following official resources:

  1. USCIS Temporary Protected Status Page: This official government website provides detailed information on TPS, including current designations, eligibility requirements, and application procedures.
  2. Federal Register Notices: Official announcements regarding TPS designations, extensions, and terminations are published in the Federal Register.
  3. Department of Homeland Security: The DHS website offers press releases and policy updates that may affect TPS designations and implementation.

Understanding Temporary Protected Status is crucial for individuals from designated countries, as well as for legal professionals, policymakers, and advocates working in the field of immigration. As global conditions continue to evolve, TPS remains an important tool in the U.S. immigration system for providing humanitarian protection to those in need.

About the author
Von Wooding, Esq.

Von Wooding, Esq.

Lawyer and Founder

Counsel Stack Learn

Free and helpful legal information

Find a Lawyer
Counsel Stack Learn

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Counsel Stack Learn.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.