TPS vs. Asylum: How Do They Compare?

In a Nutshell

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and asylum are both humanitarian provisions of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), but they are not the same thing. Sometimes one status works better than the other for your situation. This article compares the two immigration statuses so you can have a better understanding of which may be most suitable for your purposes.

Written by Jonathan Petts
Updated August 7, 2022

What Are the Similarities Between Asylum and TPS?

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and asylum are both immigration statuses for people fleeing unsafe conditions in their home country. TPS protects anyone who is a national of a country designated unsafe. For asylum, you will need to prove you face persecution or fear persecution because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. 

In both cases, beneficiaries can lawfully remain in the United States while protected from removal or deportation. They are also protected even while your TPS or asylum application is pending. If you get TPS status, you are safe from deportation or detention based on your previous unlawful immigration status. 

Both statuses also have immigration benefits. For example, both allow you to get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work lawfully in the U.S. But there are some quirks to familiarize yourself with if you’re seeking asylum and want to work. With TPS, you can obtain a travel permit or Advance Parole.

Advance Parole is a document that allows you to travel abroad and lawfully return. You can also apply for this travel permit when applying for asylum. Still, you should avoid traveling if you want U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to approve your application. If you return to your home country, your asylum status could get revoked since you need to prove you’re unsafe there. 

What Are the Differences Between Asylum and TPS?

There are many aspects to consider when comparing and contrasting asylum and TPS statuses.

Individual vs. National Designation

The main difference between asylum and TPS is that asylum considers your individual case. TPS is for all nationals of certain countries deemed unsafe. 

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides that certain designated countries should have TPS status. These beneficiary countries are deemed unsafe due to temporary conditions such as ongoing armed conflict like civil war, an environmental disaster or epidemic, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. 

Currently, these countries include: 

  • Afghanistan

  • Burma (Myanmar)

  • Cameroon

  • El Salvador

  • Haiti

  • Honduras

  • Nepal

  • Nicaragua

  • Somalia

  • Sudan

  • South Sudan

  • Syria

  • Ukraine

  • Venezuela

  • Yemen

You can file a TPS application with USCIS if you are a national of one of these countries. Or if you have no nationality but most recently lived in one of these countries, you are also eligible. You do not need to individually prove anything other than being a national of that country. However, your status ends when the secretary of DHS no longer renews the TPS status of your country of origin. This status is temporary. 

With asylum, your own circumstances matter much more. You need to prove you were previously persecuted in your home country or fear persecution if you return. You must fear persecution based on one of these five grounds: your race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

If you are seeking asylum, you must prove your specific case. The application process is more individual and extensive. However, you can permanently stay in the United States if you gain asylum status. 

Application Time Limits 

You must apply for TPS during the application deadlines for your first-time application and later renewals. These deadlines are different depending on your home country. 

For asylum, you must apply before one year has passed since you arrived in the United States. Otherwise, you will face a higher burden of proof. 

Green Card or Naturalization 

You cannot obtain a green card or citizenship naturalization through TPS. You need to apply separately for permanent residency. You will have to be eligible in another category. For example, you may be able to receive a marriage-based green card if you become the spouse of a permanent resident or citizen. For most green cards, if you have had an unlawful presence for more than six months, you may be considered “inadmissible.” In other words, you won’t be eligible for permanent resident status. However, you won't face any bars if you apply for TPS within 180 days of your visa expiration. 

With asylum, you can apply to become a permanent resident one year after your approval. 

Work Permit

As a TPS recipient, you can also quickly start working. You can apply for a work permit at the same time as you apply for TPS. 

However, asylum applicants cannot work immediately after submitting their application unless they already have a valid work permit. They must wait until USCIS approves their application. Or they must wait 365 days or more with no decision and no applicant-caused delays. 

Can You Apply for Both Asylum and TPS?

Yes, you can apply for all forms of immigration statuses that you qualify for. You can submit multiple applications, especially if you have no status. If you already have one status, you should consult an attorney before applying for another status to ensure it doesn’t conflict with your current status. 

Keep in mind that applying for TPS is usually faster because you don’t need to prove your individual case. But remember that it is only a temporary status.