In response to the unimaginable devastation that occurred as a result of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. government has announced that it will grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to qualified Haitian nationals. This means that to qualify you do not have to be in a current lawful immigration status to be eligible to enroll into TPS. While TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent resident status by itself , TPS status can be very helpful to those individuals who qualify. TPS enrollment allows beneficiaries to remain in the U.S. for a temporary duration without the fear of deportation. Once enrolled, beneficiaries can obtain legal authorization to work which also qualifies the TPS beneficiary to apply for a social security number and, in most States, drivers licenses. (8 U.S.C. § 1254(a)).
Eligibility requires that an individual prove that he or she is:
- A national of Haiti, or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in Haiti
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since January 12, 2010.
- Have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since the date of the Federal Register Notice publication, and
- Meet certain immigrant admissibility requirements, and other TPS eligibility requirements (See INA § 244(c), 8 U.S.C. § 1254a and 8 C.F.R. §§ 144.2-244.4.)
- Satisfactorily complete all TPS application procedures as described in the Federal Register notice announcing Haitian TPS, the TPS application instructions, and regulations at 8 C.F.R. §§ 244.6 – 244.9.
Another good reason to enroll into TPS is that once enrolled, the government often extends the temporary status beyond the 18 month announcement, so long as participants remain eligible and re-register. This VERY common occurrence allows a TPS beneficiary to re-register for additional periods beyond the anticipated 18 months, especially when the country has experienced such extensive calamity as has Haiti. For example, many current TPS beneficiaries from countries like El Salvador and Honduras have been re-registering their TPS status for decades so long as they continue to meet eligibility requirements, timely re-enroll during subsequent re-registration periods, and remain admissible in the meantime.
The most important thing that a TPS hopeful can do is not to procrastinate correctly filing for TPS within the initial registration period! It is also important to stay abreast of future government bulletins that often circulate near the end of the specified TPS period.
To ensure the best and fastest opportunity to properly enroll into TPS you should contact a qualified immigration attorney who is experienced with TPS cases.