U.S. Immigration: What is TPS, or Temporary Protected Status?

Since the enactment of the Immigration Act of 1990, individuals from nations with difficult and dangerous circumstances have been granted the opportunity to live and work legally in the United States through the temporary protected status (TPS) program. At present, over 350 thousand TPS beneficiaries are residing in the US.

TPS is greatly influenced by the political leanings of the current administration. US presidents that are supportive of expanding US immigration policies usually seek to broaden the TPS program through a range of modifications, while those presidents who are unsympathetic to expanding immigration opportunities often attempt to curtail or eliminate TPS benefits.

How does TPS work?

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.

The Secretary may designate a country for TPS due to the following temporary conditions in the country:

  • Ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war)
  • An environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases (prima facie eligible):

  • Are not removable from the United States
  • Can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD)
  • May be granted travel authorization
  • Once granted TPS, an individual also cannot be detained by DHS on the basis of his or her immigration status in the United States.

TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead to lawful permanent resident status or give any other immigration status. However, registration for TPS does not prevent you from:

  • Applying for nonimmigrant status
  • Filing for adjustment of status based on an immigrant petition
  • Applying for any other immigration benefit or protection for which you may be eligible
Source: USCIS February 2023

Authority Source: Immigration Act of 1990

Title III of the Immigration Act of 1990 established Temporary Protected Status:

Title III directs the Attorney General to provide for a temporary stay of deportation and work authorization for certain eligible immigrants who are spouses or unmarried children of a legalized alien who was provided temporary or permanent residence status under the Act or permanent residence status under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Disqualifies, temporarily, such immigrants, who are granted such temporary stay, from certain public welfare assistance, on the same basis as their legalized alien relative. Makes exceptions to such temporary stay for convicted criminals and other specified aliens.

Establishes a program for granting temporary protected status and work authorization to aliens in the United States who are nationals of countries designated by the Attorney General to be subject to armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary temporary conditions. Authorizes the Attorney General to grant such temporary protected status. Prohibits deportation during the period in which such status is in effect. Directs the Attorney General to: (1) authorize such alien to engage in employment in the United States; and (2) provide such alien with an employment authorized endorsement or other appropriate permit. Sets forth provisions relating to benefits and status during such period of temporary protected status. Provides that such alien shall not be considered to be permanently residing in the United States under color or law. Allows a State or local government to deem such alien ineligible for public assistance. Limits consideration in the Senate of legislation adjusting the status of such aliens, by requiring an affirmative vote of three-fifths of the Senate. Requires an annual report on and congressional review of such temporary protected status program. Provides that such program shall not supercede or affect Executive Order 12711 (of April 11, 1990, relating to policy implementation with respect to nationals of the People’s Republic of China).

Provides for special temporary protected status for Salvadorans. Designates El Salvador as a country whose nationals are eligible for temporary protected status under the new program, subject to specified restrictions. Makes such designation effective as of enactment of this Act, until the end of an 18-month period beginning January 1, 1991. Requires a Salvadoran, to be eligible for such status, to have been in the United States continuously since September 19, 1990, and to register between January 1 and June 30, 1991. Requires renewal of such registration and work authorization every six months. Sets forth special rules for enforcement of the requirement to depart following termination of such designation.

S.358 – 101st Congress (1989-1990): Immigration Act of 1990, S.358, 101st Cong. (1990), https://www.congress.gov/bill/101st-congress/senate-bill/358.


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