DHS to Terminate Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in 18 Months

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
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On November 20, 2017, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke announced her decision to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Haiti with a delayed effective date of 18 months to allow for an orderly transition before the designation terminates on July 22, 2019.

What is TPS?

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the U.S.  Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.  Once granted TPS, an individual also cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the basis of his or her immigration status in the U.S.  TPS beneficiaries may also receive work and travel authorization.  TPS is a temporary benefit that, alone, does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status.  Haiti was designated for TPS in 2010, following the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010.

Why was the decision made to terminate TPS for Haiti?

According to the announcement by DHS, the decision to terminate TPS for Haiti was made after a review of the conditions upon which the country’s original designation were based and whether those extraordinary but temporary conditions prevented Haiti from adequately handling the return of their nationals, as required by statute.  Based on all available information, including recommendations received as part of an inter-agency consultation process, Acting Secretary Duke determined that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist.  According to the announcement, Acting Secretary Duke met with Haitian Foreign Minister Antonio Rodrigue and Haitian Ambassador to the United States Paul Altidor recently in Washington to discuss the issue.

When will DHS terminate TPS?

The effective date of the termination of TPS for Haiti will be delayed 18 months. DHS expects that during that timeframe, individuals with TPS would arrange for their departure or seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the United States, if eligible.  DHS also expects that the 18-month delay will provide time for Haiti to prepare for the return and reintegration of their citizens.  According to the DHS announcement, during this timeframe, USCIS will work with the State Department, other DHS components and the Government of Haiti to help educate relevant stakeholders and facilitate an orderly transition.

Will Haitians with TPS be work authorized during the 18-month timeframe?

Haitians with TPS will be required to reapply for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) in order to legally work in the United States until the end of the respective termination or extension periods.

Are there any alternative immigration options for individuals currently in TPS status?

Individuals currently in TPS status might be eligible to apply for an alternate lawful non-immigrant or immigrant status.  This is a determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the individual’s circumstances – for example, employment-based or family-based applications.  It is possible that some individuals will not have any viable options to remain in the U.S. lawfully.  It is important for individuals in TPS status to assess their options far in advance of the TPS termination date as some immigration applications can entail lengthy processing times.

Further details about this termination for TPS are expected to appear in a Federal Register notice.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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