On September 20th, 2023, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced the extension and redesignation of Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months due to the ongoing political, humanitarian, security, and environmental crisis happening in the country. TPS has historically been used as a solution for migrants who are not able to return to their home country safely, and many countries around the world have their own form of a similar program. While those with TPS are not considered citizens nor lawful permanent residents, some American citizens are divided on the program due to efforts of legislators to try and allow migrants to be put on a path to citizenship.
Regardless, those who hold TPS cannot be deported or detained by DHS on the basis of their immigration status, are eligible for employment authorization, and eligible for travel authorization. In this blog, we’ll be going over the basics of TPS in the United States, as well as how the recent announcement will impact thousands of Venezuelan natives.
What Is Temporary Protected Status?
TPS was first established by Congress in 1990 with the goal of allowing migrants whose home countries are unsafe the ability to live and work in America for a temporary, but potentially extendable, period of time – typically 18 months. Only migrants from a limited number of designated countries are able to apply for and obtain TPS, and they are usually countries whose citizens are suffering due to natural disasters, ongoing armed conflict, or other extraordinary conditions. Currently, around 600,000 foreign nationals reside in the United States under TPS from the following 16 countries:
- El Salvador
- Burma (Myanmar)
- South Sudan
How Does TPS Work?
Once a country is designated eligible for TPS, any citizen of that nation who is already physically present in the U.S. is able to apply for the program, provided that they meet the specific requirements set by the USCIS. Individuals who have accrued criminal convictions in the U.S. or have been found to be participating in terrorist activities will be disqualified from TPS eligibility.
When a country’s designation expires, individuals with TPS return to the immigration status they previously held; many times, this means reverting back to undocumented status and facing the threat of deportation. Though temporary, some may be eligible to apply for student or employment visas. If their spouse or adult children are citizens or legal residents, however, they may be eligible to remain in the U.S. legally.
How Does TPS Differ From Asylum?
Though both humanitarian in nature, TPS and asylum often get confused with the other despite being separate immigration categories. They both reflect efforts to offer refugees an opportunity to live and work in the United States because they face unsafe conditions in their native country. However, TPS is not individualized, while asylum calls for a highly individualized assessment of the asylee’s case, meaning an inquiry into their specific circumstances to identify either past persecution or a credible fear of such in the future, if they were to return to their home country. This persecution must stem from either their native government or a third party organization that the government cannot, or will not, control. Finally, the persecution must be based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group or organization.
Because of this, asylum is much more difficult to prove and acquire than TPS. Although, with asylum, an individual will eventually be able to obtain a green card if they desire, and cannot be revoked as easily and quickly as TPS, where countries can be removed from eligibility with short notice.
Extension And Redesignation Of TPS For Venezuelan Migrants
The recent announcement of the expansion of TPS for qualifying Venezuelans has the potential to impact nearly half a million migrants currently residing in the U.S. Before the announcement was made, TPS was slated to expire for Venezuelans in March of 2024. Now, those who have been continuously residing in the U.S. with TPS since before July 31, 2023, will be able to remain here until September 2025 due to the continued instability and lack of safety within the country. Those who were unable or failed to obtain a legal status such as TPS or asylum are at risk of deportation, as are those who arrived in the U.S. after July 31.
The Federal Register notice which details specific eligibility requirements, timelines, and procedures necessary for current individuals who hold TPS to re-register and renew their Employment Authorization Document, as well as new applicants to submit their initial applications, has not yet been released, but is forthcoming.
How To Apply For TPS
As already stated, individuals who already held TPS will still need to re-register. Those who are applying for TPS for the first time must complete Form I-821, as well as Form I-765 to obtain employment authorization. As with all other immigration applications, Form I-821 is an incredibly in-depth document that requires you to provide an extensive amount of personal information and background. You will also need to provide supporting documentation, such as your proof of nationality (passport, birth certificate, valid national ID card, etc.), evidence that you have continuously resided in the U.S. (utility bills, rent receipts, school records, medical records, etc.), date of entry documents (may include your stamped passport of I-94 arrival/departure record), and any fees associated with your filing.
With your future and safety on the line, it is in your best interest to allow a skilled and experienced immigration attorney assist you with applying for TPS, to ensure that every step is completed correctly and you have the best chance at being approved.
Contact Ortega Law Group Today For A Free Consultation
If you are a Venezuelan who currently holds TPS or would like to apply, it is crucial that you renew or complete your initial application in accordance with the timelines that the DHS is soon to release. Our firm can assist you whether you are a native of Venezuela or any of the other TPS-designated countries. Our lead attorney, Isaac Ortega, is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and has helped hundreds of immigrants accomplish their immigration goals. Call today to get started!