Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) is a program the United States Congress created in 1990 to protect immigrants from countries that have become too dangerous to return to. TPS is part of U.S. Immigration Law, but it’s up to the Secretary of Homeland Security to decide when a country should appear on the list of protected nations—and when it should be removed.

A country may be placed on the list of designated countries if it is experiencing ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary but temporary conditions. TPS is only temporary by definition—usually 6, 12, or 18 months at a time—and while the Secretary can extend these designations, they can also be terminated if conditions in that country have improved. Currently, the countries listed by USCIS for TPS status are Burma (Myanmar), El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Suppose a country is designated for TPS status. In that case, three “magic dates” matter: First, the Secretary will name a “designation date,” which is the date a person from that country must be within the United States to be eligible to apply for TPS. For example, Haiti’s current “designation date” is August 3, 2021, meaning that a citizen of Haiti must have been continuously physically present in the USA since August 3, 2021. (The designation date for each country is different, and you can look these up here: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status)

Another date matters for eligibility: the date of continuous residence for Haiti is July 29, 2021. This means that a person must be able to show a place of residence in the United States, dating from July 29, 2021. (The continuous residence date for each country differs; you can look them up at the link above.)

Finally, there is the registration period, with a final date on which applications will be accepted for a designated country. For Haiti, the final date to apply is February 3, 2023, for those registering since August 3, 2021. (The final date to apply differs for each country; check the link above for details.)

Any immigrant from a protected country who meets the designation and continuous residence dates can apply for TPS during the registration period. However, there are some barriers based on criminal history. A TPS application (USCIS Form I-821) must be accompanied by evidence of physical presence in the country since those first two magic dates.

Some simple ways to prove physical presence and residence include a letter from a landlord or employer covering those dates; paystubs from that period, school records, medical records; utility bills; and affidavits (written statements) from friends or neighbors who can confirm the person has not left the U.S. Sometimes an applicant will have very few documents to prove their presence in the United States. They will need to come up with creative solutions to present as strong a case as possible.

An experienced immigration team to support you as you work through these confusing “magic dates” and documents can be the key to a successful application. If you would like to explore applying for TPS status, contact our office for a free consultation with Seth to find out if your situation fits the requirements and “magic dates” for your country of citizenship.