Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
5 Things to Know

Hundreds of thousands protected by the program have accessed protections and security in the United States for many years, and contribute significantly to the workforce and the economy

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) offers work authorization and deportation protections for individuals in the U.S. who cannot safely return to their home countries. TPS is a critical program that provides many immigrants an opportunity to remain in the U.S. and work while conditions in their home countries remain unsafe for them to return. TPS also benefits the United States, providing important protections to families throughout communities and driving important contributions to the U.S. economy and workforce.

The Biden Administration has taken steps to extend TPS protections for immigrants from certain countries devastated by natural disaster and war. However, many more individuals currently in the U.S. need protections from deportation to countries where their lives would be at risk, and the Administration must continue to use this important authority to protect immigrants living in the U.S. today.

Here are five key things you need to know about TPS today:

Most TPS holders have been living, working, and contributing to the U.S. economy for many years

FWD.us analysis shows that many TPS holders have been in the United States for a very long time, having set down roots, pursuing careers, building families, and integrating into American communities and society; in fact, TPS holders from El Salvador and Honduras, who make up a significant share of the current TPS population, have lived in the U.S. for an average of 27 years.

Many TPS recipients are deeply ingrained into American families and communities. For instance, FWD.us estimates that more than 800,000 U.S. citizens live in households with at least one current TPS holder or TPS-eligible person, including some 400,000 U.S. citizen children.

Most TPS holders have labor force participation rates over 80%. They hold more than 600,000 jobs, filling important gaps in an economy plagued by persistent labor shortages. TPS holders
annually contribute some $22 billion in wages to the national GDP. And while many live in states with very large immigrant populations like Florida, Texas, California, and New York, several other states–New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina–are each home to thousands of TPS holders.

Because TPS holders have established such deep roots, abruptly forcing them out of the workforce and country would impose harmful economic consequences on the U.S. as well. Researchers estimate that ending TPS for El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti alone would result in a $45.2 billion reduction in GDP over a decade and cost employers nearly $1 billion in turnover costs. Deporting individuals who were previously protected would cost American taxpayers $3.1 billion.

2| Congress created TPS to protect and support immigrants in the U.S. while their home countries struggle with war, devastation, hunger, and chaos

Congress established TPS as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 to provide temporary reprieve from deportation and work authorization to certain immigrants who are unable to return to their home countries because of war, natural disaster, or other extraordinary circumstances.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), more than 350,000 TPS holders from 17 countries live in the U.S. today. With recent TPS designations and redesignations, however, the number of individuals eligible for TPS, those who have not formally applied or been approved, is significantly higher. In fact, FWD.us estimates that about 350,000 additional individuals are currently eligible for TPS; in all, nearly 900,000 individuals were TPS holders or were eligible for TPS protections at the end of 2022.

Many individuals protected by TPS have fled some of the most devastating natural disasters and armed conflicts of our time. The U.S. has protected them from deadly civil wars and natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch and devastating earthquakes. All told, these crises and their aftermath have taken the lives of nearly 4 million people in these countries, and dangerous conditions remain.

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with certain agencies like the State Department, designates the countries eligible for TPS for up to 18 months. The designations can be subsequently extended, re-designated, or terminated. Extensions only provide protection to those already with TPS, whereas re-designations establish a new registration window for individuals who arrived after the initial designation.

The DHS Secretary can designate a country for TPS if there has been:

  • ongoing armed conflict
  • environmental disaster (like an earthquake, flood, drought, or epidemic), or
  • some other extraordinary conditions that would not allow their nationals to return.

3| TPS has strict eligibility requirements including limited registration windows, cutoff dates, and background and security checks

TPS is a narrow set of temporary protections available only to a limited population, a far cry from any sort of sweeping “amnesty.” These protections are not granted automatically; the application process requires eligible individuals to apply, pay a fee, and undergo a background check.

Only people who have been continuously present in the United States since the date of designation (or re-designation) and who timely register with the government are eligible. Anyone who arrives after the date of designation cannot enroll, precluding any sort of incentive for further immigration. In addition, in order to avail oneself of a country’s temporary extension, current TPS holders must re-register with the government and again pay a significant filing fee for work authorization.

TPS holders cannot confer their TPS immigration status to family members abroad nor use their TPS as a basis for sponsorship, regardless of the crises they may face, and they cannot access most federal public benefits.

4| The Biden Administration has extended TPS protections, in line with previous administrations controlled by both parties, but more must be done

TPS has been an impactful and beneficial program since it was established 30 years ago, and has been widely used by Presidential Administrations, both Republican and Democratic. Since TPS was established, new TPS designations for countries were issued six times during the George H.W. Bush Administration, 10 times during the Clinton Administration, twice during the George W. Bush Administration, eight times during the Obama Administration, and eight times so far during the Biden Administration.

Since taking office, President Biden has returned to fully utilizing the TPS program. That counters President Trump’s efforts to end TPS protections for hundreds of thousands of individuals, despite evidence that their home countries are very unsafe.

In contrast, the Biden Administration has already announced TPS designations for multiple new countries, including Afghanistan, Burma, Cameroon, Ukraine, Venezuela, and a new designation for Haiti. The Administration also included a pathway to legal status and citizenship for many TPS holders in its proposed U.S. Citizenship Act (S. 348).

Many more individuals in the U.S., however, need protections from deportation to countries where their lives would be at risk. For instance, members of Congress and human rights advocates have proposed the addition of new TPS countries where conditions remain very unsafe, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, and Pakistan. Each of these countries faces extraordinary human rights challenges, widespread violence, or recent climate-related events that warrant immediate TPS designations. Additionally, conditions remain unsafe in current TPS countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, and Nicaragua, but the U.S. has not allowed new TPS registrations for these countries since 2018.

5| Most TPS holders do not have a pathway to permanent legal status, but Congress could change that

While the protections are intended to be temporary, conditions in many TPS countries have not yet improved enough to allow these individuals to return home, and the TPS holders have to stay in the U.S. continually to maintain protections. If the designations are terminated, most will not have any pathway to legal status in the country they have come to call home, and will face having to return or being put into deportation proceedings, separated from their jobs, their homes, and their U.S. citizen children. After two decades of working hard and following the rules, they deserve an opportunity to stay.

Congress must establish a legislative pathway for these long-standing residents to adjust to a permanent legal status and pursue citizenship. Such a pathway for TPS holders who have lived here for a long time would have been possible under the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013. More recently, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) with strong bipartisan support in the 117th Congress, and a pathway for TPS holders was included in the President’s proposed U.S. Citizenship Act (S. 348). Today, the stakes are even higher, and the need for Congress to act is more urgent than ever.

Further Reading

For more detailed background on Temporary Protected Status, check out these explainers from experts at the Congressional Research Service, the Migration Policy Institute, the American Immigration Council, or the National Immigration Forum.

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