The Secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to designate a foreign country for temporary protected status (TPS) due to conditions in the country such as an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters and other extraordinary conditions that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely.
Once the designation is made, TPS grants eligible nationals of the TPS country who are in the U.S. a temporary, humanitarian form of relief from deportation during the designated period and allows them to obtain work authorization and travel documents. It does not however lead to permanent residence status. Once granted TPS, the beneficiary cannot be detained by the DHS on the basis of his immigration status in the US unless he becomes ineligible or the country loses the designation.
Efforts to designate the Philippines for TPS have been made. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, affected over 7 million people in the Philippines. Over 5,000 lives have been lost and over 4 million people displaced.
At least three U.S. Senators, namely, Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Benjamin Cardin, and Senator Bob Menendez have submitted a request to the DHS to designate the Philippines for TPS. Other groups such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the NY Legal Assistance Group have also sent similar requests.
According to them, requiring the Philippines to reabsorb its nationals from abroad, many of whom may have lost their homes, would impose a great burden on the rescue and restoration efforts in the country. TPS would provide a safe haven for those who are reluctant to return to potentially dangerous situations. It would also allow Filipinos in the U.S. to work and support their families in the Philippines who were impacted by the typhoon.
Eligible nationals of a country designated for TPS are also allowed to apply for nonimmigrant status, file for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition and apply for any other immigration benefits or protection. The applicant must however still meet the basic requirements for other benefits sought.
To be eligible for TPS, the foreign national must meet the basic requirements, namely: that he is a national of a country designated for TPS, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country; that he files for TPS status during the initial registration period or re-registration period or he meets the requirements for late initial filing during any extension; that he has been continuously physically present in the U.S. since the effective date of the designation; and that he has been continuously residing in the U.S. since the date specified in the designation.
Those who have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the U.S, or are found to be inadmissible to the U.S. based on grounds listed in INA section 212(a), including non-waivable criminal and security-related grounds, or are subject to any of the mandatory bars to asylum are not eligible for TPS. Those who fail to meet the initial or late initial registration requirements or fail to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence requirements are also ineligible for TPS.
Registration for TPS is made on Form I-821. It must be filed with Form I-765, application for Employment Authorization even if the applicant does not want an employment authorization document.
The decision to designate the Philippines for TPS lies with the executive branch of the federal government. Congress does not have to vote on it although members of Congress may make the request to the President. The decision ultimately rests with the President and his agencies.
Countries currently designated for TPS are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria.