What Is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

In a Nutshell

The secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to some foreigners whose home countries are not safe for their return. This article gives an overview of TPS, including its history and benefits for those eligible. The article also covers which countries have TPS, TPS eligibility requirements and application process.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated September 18, 2023

What Does Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Mean?

Congress established Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 1990 through the Immigration Act of 1990. The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security grants this immigration status to people from designated countries that are unsafe to return to. 

TPS recipients can legally live and work in the United States for up to 18 months, but the U.S. government can indefinitely renew these benefits. TPS beneficiaries can receive work authorization or employment authorization documents (EAD). They also can get travel authorization and protection from deportation. 

Can TPS Recipients Become U.S. Citizens?

TPS recipients cannot become citizens or lawful permanent residents through the TPS program. However, they can separately apply for a green card or citizenship. In June 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that TPS recipients who entered the United States without inspection cannot adjust to permanent residency. They must leave and pursue consular processing from their home country. 

Both Democrats and Republicans have supported TPS for over 30 years, but it recently became controversial. The Trump administration tried to end TPS status to restrict immigration further. However, a federal judge stopped the attempt. 

Recently, the Biden administration promised to expand protections. TPS designation now includes additional countries, including Ukraine, Myanmar or Burma, and Venezuela, and benefits to many other nations' citizens were extended. President Biden also proposed legislation to give TPS holders a path to naturalization. 

What Are the TPS Countries?

These are the countries that currently are eligible for TPS and their potential expiration dates: 

  • Afghanistan - Nov. 20, 2023

  • Burma (Myanmar) - May 25, 2024

  • Cameroon - Dec. 7, 2023

  • El Salvador - Mar. 9, 2025*

  • Ethiopia - June 12, 2024

  • Haiti - Aug. 3, 2024*

  • Honduras - July 5, 2025*

  • Nepal - June 24, 2025*

  • Nicaragua - July 5, 2025*

  • Somalia - Mar. 17, 2023

  • Sudan- April 19, 2025**

  • South Sudan - Nov. 3, 2023

  • Syria - Mar. 31, 2024

  • Ukraine - April 19, 2025

  • Venezuela - Mar. 10, 2024

  • Yemen - Sept. 3, 2024

*El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal & Nicaragua: TPS valid as long as preliminary injunction ordered by district court in Ramos et al. v. Nielsen et al., 336 F.Supp.3d 1075 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2018) remains in effect.”

**Sudan: Current expiration date is April 19, 2025, for those who have TPS under the new designation, announced in August 2023. Anyone who had TPS under the 2013 designation of Sudan is covered by Ramos v. Wolf unless your TPS has been withdrawn for ineligibility.

Important: TPS expiration dates and eligibility change frequently. To see the most current information, visit the USCIS’s TPS page. (Article last updated 9-19-23)

What Happens if TPS Is Extended? 

The secretary of homeland security decides whether to extend TPS after reviewing the country’s conditions. The secretary will usually consult with other government agencies, including the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS issues Federal Register notices regarding the decision for each country. 

What if Your TPS Status Expires?

Once the designation of the country expires, it is unclear what happens to TPS holders of that country because of current litigation. There are multiple pending lawsuits that challenge the end of TPS status. The Ramos case challenged the end of TPS for El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Sudan. Another federal lawsuit challenged the end of TPS for Nepal and Honduras, and the Saget case challenged the end of TPS for Haitians. 

Currently, the DHS has extended TPS status for people from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador, Nepal, and Honduras while litigation in the Ramos case is ongoing. 

Once there is a final court ruling, and if the TPS status of these nations ends, the DHS will allow 365 days of “orderly transition” for people from El Salvador. For all other countries, there will be a 120-day period. After this period, deportations may begin. 

While it is unclear if your status will expire, you could consider pursuing other immigration options. For example, you may want to apply for refugee status to receive more permanent protection. Consider speaking to an immigration attorney about your situation.  

What Are the Eligibility Requirements for TPS?

TPS offers humanitarian relief to citizens of countries with TPS status. The secretary determines TPS status based on: 

  • Ongoing armed conflict, such as civil war 

  • Environmental disasters, such as natural disasters or an epidemic

  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions 

To be eligible for TPS, you must: 

  • Be a national of a designated country for TPS or a person without nationality who last lived regularly in a selected country 

  • File for status during a specific registration period. This period could be the initial registration period or a re-registration period. Otherwise, you must meet the requirements for late filing during an extension of your country’s TPS status. 

  • Have been continuously physically present (CPP) in the United States since the most recent designation date of your country 

  • Have been continuously residing (CR) in the United States since the date specified for your country

You are not eligible for TPS if you: 

  • Are convicted of a felony or two or more misdemeanors in the United States 

  • Are inadmissible under applicable parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act section 212(a), which include particular criminal and security-related reasons 

  • Face mandatory bars to asylum, such as for persecuting another individual or causing terrorist activity 

  • Fail to meet CPP and CR requirements 

  • Fail to meet registration date requirements 

What Is the TPS Application Process?

To apply for TPS, you must file Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can file Form I-821 online. USCIS also provides specific requirements by country on their website.

While filing Form I-821, you can also request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by submitting Form I-765, Request for Employment Authorization. You can file this at the same time or later on. If you file simultaneously, you may receive your EAD sooner. You can also file Form I-765 online if applicable. 

You can apply for a waiver if you face a bar of inadmissibility by filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. If you previously got a waiver from USCIS, you do not need to submit this form again. 

When you file your initial application, you need to include three types of evidence: identity and nationality, date of entry, and continuous residence. 

Identity and Nationality Evidence

You need to prove you are a national of the country designated for TPS. Or you must prove you have no nationality and last lived in the selected country.  

Primary evidence is the strongest kind. You can submit: 

  • A copy of your passport

  • A copy of your birth certificate and photo identification

  • A national identity document with your photograph and/or fingerprint from your country

    • Such as documents from your country’s embassy or consulate in the United States

    • Or a naturalization certificate 

If you have no primary evidence, you could submit an affidavit that provides: 

  • Proof of your unsuccessful efforts to get the documents

  • An explanation of why you could not access the consular process for your country 

Keep in mind that if USCIS does not find your evidence sufficient, they may request more evidence. If you cannot submit primary proof, you can submit secondary evidence. 

Secondary evidence is less strong but includes: 

  • Nationality documentation such as a naturalization certificate, even if it lacks your photo or fingerprint

  • A baptismal certificate indicating your nationality or a parent’s nationality 

  • Copy of school or medical records that support your claim 

  • Copies of immigration documents that show your nationality 

  • Affidavits from friends or family members who know the date and place of your birth and your parents’ nationality

How Much Does It Cost To Apply for TPS?

To apply for TPS, you need to pay three separate fees:

  1. Form I-821 filing fee

  2. Biometrics services fee

  3. Form I-765 filing fee for work authorization, if you want an EAD

If you are submitting Form I-821 for the first time, there will be a fee. If you are re-registering, you do not need to pay. The biometrics fee will depend on your age. Check the USCIS chart to determine your total cost. Generally, your cost as a first-time adult filer will range from $135 to $545. You can submit Form I-912 to request a fee waiver if you have demonstrated financial need. The fee waiver could potentially cover all of the TPS fees. 

Additional Considerations

One similar program is deferred enforced departure (DED). This program prevents the removal of migrants from countries or areas with conflict. However, the president decides these matters through executive order. Currently, DED covers nationals of Liberia and Hong Kong. DED status for Venezuela ended on July 20, 2022. 

Extended voluntary departure (EVD) is the program that predated TPS. The attorney general had power over this program. It ended when Congress replaced it with TPS.