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Temporary Protected Status (TPS): 5 Things to Know

Hundreds of thousands protected by the program have lived in the United States for over a decade but face an uncertain future

The Biden Administration has taken steps to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protections for immigrants from countries devastated by natural disaster and war, after the previous Administration sought to revoke these protections. The House of Representatives has also passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) with strong bipartisan support, legislation that would establish a pathway to citizenship for individuals who have lived in the U.S. with TPS for a long time. 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 return.

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

1| Most TPS holders have been living, working, and following the rules in the US for nearly two decades

The majority of TPS holders have been in the country 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, Honduras, and Haiti – 90% of the current TPS population – have lived in the U.S. for an average of 19 years, and have an estimated 273,000 U.S. citizen children born and raised in America.

TPS holders have labor force participation rates over 80%, and are on track to contribute $164 billion to national GDP over the next decade. And while many live in states with very large immigrant populations like California, Florida, New York and Texas, six other states – Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Georgia – are home to over 10,000 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. Subsequently deporting those previously protected would cost American taxpayers $3.1 billion.

Furthermore, ending TPS programs risks slashing significant remittances sent abroad that help countries remediate the very crisis providing the basis for TPS. Salvadorans alone are estimated to have sent over $5.02 billion home, about 18.3 percent of the country’s GDP; Haiti and Honduras share similar stories. This critical support can help families still living in these struggling regions and provide additional investment to improve conditions in the country. At the same time, remittances benefit the U.S. as well; as the American Immigration Council explains, “Remittances boost the consumption of U.S. exports, resulting in expansion of U.S. business and trade competitiveness.”

2| TPS holders are thriving in the US while their home countries are engulfed in 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, and other extraordinary circumstances.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there are approximately 319,000 TPS holders from 10 countries in the U.S. today. Two other countries (Burma and Venezuela) have recently been designated for TPS and have ongoing enrollment periods. 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.

TPS Beneficiaries by Country of Citizenship

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Source: Congressional Research Service, "Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure"

a. The arrival date represents the date from which individuals are required to have continuously resided in the United States in order to qualify for TPS and is indicated in the most recent TPS designation for that country. Unless a country is re-designated for TPS, the required arrival date does not change. A foreign national is not considered to have failed this requirement for a “brief, casual, and innocent” absence. 8 U.S.C. §1254a(c) and 8 C.F.R. §244.1.
b. The expiration date represents the end of the most recent designation period and is subject to change based on future decisions of the Secretary of DHS.
c. These data reflect the number of individuals (rounded to the nearest five by USCIS) with an approved TPS application as of March 11, 2021, who had not obtained LPR status or U.S. citizenship. The one exception is Yemen; the count of individuals with TPS under Yemen's designation has been updated to reflect new data published in the Federal Register as part of Yemen's extension and redesignation for TPS.. The data may include individuals who have left the country or died since their last TPS approval, and do not necessarily include all nationals from the specified countries who are in the United States and are eligible for the status. d. Due to legal challenges, these termination have not yet taken effect. While the designations have been terminated, DHS has extended the validity of all TPS-related documents for beneficiaries of TPS for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan through October 4, 2021.
e. Because the application period just began, data are not yet available. DHS estimates that 323,000 individuals are eligible for TPS for Venezuela, and 1,600 individuals are eligible for TPS for Burma.
f. On May 22, 2021 DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced an 18-month designation of TPS for Haiti. Individuals from Haiti who have continuously resided in the U.S. since May 21, 2021 will be eligible to apply. The expiration date will be 18 months following the publication of the announcement in the Federal Register. An estimated 40,000 individuals from Haiti are currently protected under TPS. These individuals will retain their protections through at least October 4, 2021, or longer if required to comply with court orders, though those individuals are also eligible to apply under the new designation as well. g. On July 19, 2021 DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of TPS for Somalia. Individuals from Somalia who have continuously resided in the U.S. since July 19, 2021, and who have been continuously present in the U.S. since September 18, 2021 will be eligible to apply. The TPS designation will expire on March 17, 2023. DHS estimates 447 current TPS holders will be able to retain protections under the extension, and that an additional 100 individuals will be eligible to apply under the redesignation. We have kept the count of current individuals with TPS here per the most recent data formally published by DHS. h. On July 7, 2021 DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced an 18-month extension and redesignation of TPS for Yemen. Individuals from Yemen who have continuously resided in the U.S. since July 5, 2021, and who have been continuously present in the U.S. since September 4, 2021 will be eligible to apply. The TPS designation will expire on March 3, 2023. DHS estimates 1,700 current TPS holders will be able to retain protections under the extension, and that an additional 480 individuals will be eligible to apply under the redesignation. We have kept the count of current individuals with TPS here per the most recent data formally published by DHS.

CountryMost Recent DecisionRequired Arrival DateaExpiration DatebIndividuals with TPSc
BurmaNew designationMarch 11, 2021November 25, 2022N/Ae
El SalvadorTerminationdFebruary 13, 2001September 9, 2019198,420
Haiti (2010)TerminationdJanuary 12, 2011July 22, 201940,865
Haiti (2021)New designationfMay 21, 2021November, 2022N/Af
HondurasTerminationdDecember 30, 1998January 5, 202060,350
NepalTerminationdJune 24, 2015June 24, 201910,160
NicaragauaTerminationdDecember 30, 1998January 5, 20193,200
SomaliaExtension and redesignationgJuly 19, 2021March 17, 2023385g
South SudanExtensionJanuary 25, 2016May 2, 202280
SudanTerminationdJanuary 9, 2013November 2, 2018550
SyriaExtension and redesignationMarch 19, 2021September 30, 20223,945
VenezuelaNew designationeMarch 8, 2021September 9, 2022N/Ae
YemenExtension and redesignationhJuly 5, 2021March 3, 20231,700h

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, background and security checks

TPS is a narrow set of temporary protections only available 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. Furthermore, 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 is changing course on TPS

Since taking office, President Biden has charted a new course on TPS policy. While President Trump took steps to end TPS protections for hundreds of thousands of individuals, despite evidence that at least some country conditions remained unsafe for return. The previous Administration’s attempts to end these protections are still held up in court.

In contrast, the Biden Administration has already announced TPS designations for two new countries, Venezuela and Burma, which could provide protections to an estimated 340,000 people. The Biden Administration has also announced a new designation for Haiti, providing a failsafe if the Trump Administration’s termination is allowed to take effect. The Administration also included a pathway to legal status and citizenship for many TPS holders in its proposed U.S. Citizenship Act (S. 348).

Advocates have pressed the Biden Administration to do even more, calling for consideration of TPS for countries like Cameroon and Mauritania.

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.

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 has also passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) with strong bipartisan support, 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.

Get in touch with us:

Andrew Moriarty

Deputy Director of Federal Policy

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