Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Sometimes people cannot leave the United States because of unsafe conditions in their home country, such as war or natural disaster. The United States recognizes this, and can give foreign nationals Temporary Protected Status, or TPS as it is more commonly known. It helps people who are already in the United States when the unsafe conditions start in their home country. 

To clarify, you cannot apply for TPS from your home country. Again, you must already be in the United States when the unsafe conditions start in your home country.

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Published: 10-4-2019

Immigration law is always changing. We will do our best to keep our website as up-to-date as possible, but the latest information might be more readily available at USCIS.gov. These pages were written to help you better understand your legal options, however, none of the information published by Catholic Charities Milwaukee should be considered legal advice. If you plan to open your own immigration case, hire an immigration attorney to consult you personally.

TPS Overview

Periods of Unsafe Conditions

The United States will give TPS to citizens of other countries for a variety of reasons or unsafe conditions. For example, both people from El Salvador and Haiti received TPS because of earthquakes. Somalia, on the other hand, has not had a government since 1991. In recognition of unsafe conditions, the United States can give foreign nationals TPS for periods of 6, 12, or 18 months. If the conditions that make your home country unsafe continue to exist, U.S. lawmakers are supposed to extend TPS for an additional 6, 12, or 18 months.

Rule Changes

TPS can be complicated because the rules are different for each country. Since TPS is based on when unsafe conditions exist in each country, the United States gives it to foreign nationals at different times. As a result, you must know the TPS rules for your individual country. For example, the first day that you had to be residing in the United States is different for people from El Salvador than people from Haiti. This is because the earthquake which made El Salvador unsafe took place on a different date than the earthquake that made Haiti unsafe.

Additionally, the timeframe for which the United States grants TPS is not the same length for each country. Some nationals may receive TPS for only six months, while others may have it for eighteen. Therefore, you should carefully check the rules for your home country on USCIS.gov’s Temporary Protected Status page. Once there, scroll down and look for “Countries currently designated” to find the rules for your home country.

Another thing that makes TPS complicated is that it often is a contested political issue. Consequently, the rules for TPS may further be subject to change. This has lead to confusion and anxiety for those who have TPS. It is challenging, but important to stay informed about the latest TPS rules for your home country. An experienced immigration attorney can help you keep track of the rules you need to know, and can advise you when you have to make decisions.

For the most up to date information on TPS, you can check USCIS.gov’s Temporary Protected Status page. We will also update our website as more information becomes available.

Work Permits and Driver's Licenses

Fortunately, people with TPS can also apply for work permits, which additionally allows you to get a social security number.  In Wisconsin, TPS also allows you to get a state identification card or a driver’s license. Your driver’s license will be valid only as long as your TPS, so don’t forget to timely renew both your TPS and your work permit.

Usually, Immigration decides to extend TPS close to the date the current period ends. As a result, it would be nearly impossible for them to process every work permit application they receive before the current permits expire. Therefore, Immigration automatically extends many TPS work permits. The problem is that they usually do this through a press release, and often times employers fear that the press releases are fake. Your attorney can help advocate for you with your employer. Alternatively, your employer can contact an attorney at the Department of Justice who helps with this kind of issue.

Renew Both Your TPS and Your Work Permit

Mistakenly, some people renew only their work permit and not their TPS. This is a very common and easily avoidable error. If you renew only your work permit and not your TPS, you will lose the money you paid to apply. If you do not renew your TPS on time, it is unlikely that you can re-enter the system. Do not forget to renew your TPS.

If you apply only for your work permit and it is not your fault, you might be able to file a complaint against the person who made the mistake. This would allow you to reopen your case. For example, if you hired a notary public who handled your case incorrectly, a competent lawyer might be able to help you reopen your case and get you TPS status again. Otherwise, you likely would not be able to get the TPS renewed.

Civil Documents by Country

The U.S. Department of State provides a list of acceptable documents on their website for each country that has a relationship with the United States. For example, if you are looking for what documents you need to prove a marriage, start by selecting your country and then scroll until you see the marriage certificate section. There you will find the documentation you need to give U.S. Immigration that is specific to your country. This resource can also be helpful if you need to find out how to get a copy of a divorce, birth, adoption, or death certificate from your home country.

Biometrics Appointment

When you renew your TPS, Immigration will also require you to provide updated fingerprints and a digital photo of your face at a biometrics appointment. They want to make sure there isn’t a reason for them not grant you the TPS extension. After you submit your TPS renewal application, you will receive a notice telling you when to go to your biometrics appointment.

If you cannot go, you must ask for a new appointment in writing. Your biometrics notice will tell you where to send the request. Be sure to mail it from the post office with “return receipt requested”. This way you can prove that you sent the request to change your appointment. If you do not attend your biometrics appointment and you do not ask to reschedule, Immigration will deny your TPS application. For more information, read our Biometrics Appointment blog post.

Be Careful Who You Work With

It is not uncommon for unethical people to offer to help you with your TPS application. TPS seems to be one of the immigration applications that greedy forms preparers offer to do. Please remember, if you submit a poorly done application, it might not be your fault but it is going to be your problem. 

Notaries public in the United States are not lawyers. A notary might well be a lawyer in your home country, but this is not the case in the United States. If you have a bad forms preparer, please find a good immigration lawyer who might be able to reopen your case based on your preparer’s incompetence. You should do it as soon as you can.

Seek the Help of a Good Lawyer

We Can't Stress This Enough

These pages are intended to help you understand what you are looking for – not to help you complete any of these applications alone. Immigration law is detailed and complicated, and we urge you to rely on a well-trained lawyer for help. A lawyer can help you prepare for every step along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Temporary Protected Status FAQ

If there are some things in your past that prevent you from qualifying for TPS, Immigration can waive certain problems. To receive a waiver, you need to file a waiver application. You only need to get each problem waived once. In other words, if you have already received a waiver for a problem, you do not have to re-waive when you renew your TPS.

This is when having an attorney is essential. You want someone who can tell you how likely it is that your waiver will be approved. If your waiver is not approved, there is a chance that you will be put into deportation. Find an experienced immigration attorney who can give you an honest assessment of your case.

If you travel before getting TPS, you might lose your chance to get it. Furthermore, you likely will not be able to re-enter the United States. Once you have TPS, you cannot use it alone to travel. Before you leave the United States, you must obtain advance parole, which gives you permission to re-enter the country. Your permission to travel is not permanent. It is valid only between certain dates. 

Advance parole, unfortunately, can take months to process. If you have a genuine emergency, you can apply for advance parole along with evidence of the emergency. For example, if you have an elderly parent who is seriously ill, you can send a report from a medical professional along with your application. Remember, any document that is not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

If either your first application or your renewal is denied, you can appeal by submitting another form and fee. Alternatively, if Immigration puts you into deportation proceedings, an Immigration judge can give you TPS. If the Immigration judge denies your appeal, you can also get TPS by appealing to the Board of Immigration Appeals. But a TPS appeal is not something that you can do yourself. You will need a good immigration lawyer to help you with this. 

No, TPS is a protected status that will never lead to an immigrant visa. You cannot get a green card directly through Temporary Protected Status. 

Additional Resources

When you have to depend on your lawyer to help you navigate and understand your options, it is especially important to find someone trustworthy and competent.

Some immigration applications require you to go to a biometrics appointment. Also known as an ASC (Application Support Center) appointment, the main purpose is for Immigration to take your picture and fingerprints for their records.

To get a driver’s license or state identification card (ID) in the United States, everyone must go to their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, immigrants have certain rules and instructions they need to follow.