By Licelle Cobrador, Esq.*
New York – Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) is one of the United States government’s significant humanitarian programs enacted to assist individuals in need of shelter or aid from disasters, oppression, emergency medical issues and other urgent circumstances. Under the program, the secretary of homeland security decides when a country warrants the designation and the status can be extended indefinitely.
TPS provides protection for people who are unable to return to their war-torn or catastrophe-riddled home country. If granted, it would halt deportations and provide employment authorization documents for nationals of designated countries who are in the United States. It is important to highlight that TPS is not a status or path to permanent residency.
The Philippines requested TPS after super typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. In its wake, Haiyan left more than 3 million Filipinos without access to food, water, medical attention, shelter, and other critical supplies. In addition to the millions who lost their homes, an over 5,000 Filipinos were believed to have died in the typhoon and the chaos that resulted afterward, with an additional 23,500 injured.
Then Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. called upon the different sectors of the community to collaborate with the Philippine Government in lobbying for the approval of TPS. New York City Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene of the 40th District in Brooklyn expressed that his native country, Haiti, and the Philippines share a common experience of enduring many calamities.
The Consulate General held a multi-sectoral town hall meeting on January 28, 2014 in partnership with the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund/ FALDEF and the Fil-Am Press Club of New York. Sectoral representatives included members of the National Federation of Fil-Am Associations/ NaFFAA, Knights of Rizal, Migrant Center of New York and Damayan. Various organizations coordinated similar public forums; letter-writing campaigns addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry and sought the support of their local officials. Gratefully, not all our efforts were in vain.
Shortly after April 25, 2015 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, several Nepali groups formed a national coalition and pursued a campaign for TPS. This movement has drawn upon the lessons and experiences of the Filipino and Haitian diasporas.
On June 24, 2015, Nepal was designated for TPS. To date, the termination of TPS for Nepal will not take effect until further notice. As parties to the Bhattarai v. Nielsen case, TPS holders from Nepal (with TPS holders from Honduras) filed a joint stipulation asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to temporarily stop the termination of TPS for Nepal (and Honduras) and to pause further proceedings until the Ramos appeal has been decided. The Ramos v. Nielsen case addresses TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador.
Venezuela, with more than 4 million nationals fleeing from the Madura-led administration, is the most recent country accorded TPS designation on March 9, 2021.
Eligibility for TPS
One must be a national of a country designated for TPS or a person without nationality who last habitually resided in the designated country, otherwise admissible and not firmly resettled in a third country to qualify. The applicant must file during initial registration or re-registration period (or be able to meet the requirements of late filing).
The applicant must have been continuously physically present (CPP) in the U.S. since the effective date of the most recent designation date of the country and continuously residing (CR) in the U.S. since the date specified for the country. Consequently, the USCIS must be informed regarding all absences from the U.S. since the CPP and CR dates. There is an exception allowed by law for brief, casual and innocent departures from the United States. The determination of whether the exception applies is subject to the discretion of the USCIS. Further, the applicant must not be convicted of any felony (crime committed in the U.S. punishable by imprisonment of more than one year, irrespective of actual confinement) or two or more misdemeanors (any crime punishable by one year or less, irrespective of actual time served). However, any crime punishable by a maximum of five days shall not be considered a misdemeanor. Finally, she or he must not be subject to mandatory asylum bars.
A TPS grant does not automatically result in the relinquishing of any other immigration status. In fact, such grantee may adjust or change status and is considered not to have lost lawful status. However, those who entered without inspection or were out of status prior to their TPS application will be ineligible to adjust status. Although, there are certain exceptions, this would be best discussed in a separate article in the light of Matter of Padilla Rodriguez (Nov. 2020 BIA Decision).
 INA Section 212 (a).
 See country’s TPS web page via uscis.gov
This column serves primarily as a guide. It aims to provide general information on immigration law. The information provided is for general guidance and reference purposes only and it is not intended to serve as, nor can it be relied upon, as legal advice to address any specific situation. Those with specific questions are strongly encouraged to contact an immigration attorney.)
*About the author
Born in Manila, Licelle Cobrador has over 10 years of experience in immigration and nationality law. Prior to establishing her own firm, Cobrador & Associates, PLLC, Licelle was an associate at a boutique immigration firm in Manhattan and a leading firm in Manila.
Licelle received her B.A. from the University of the Philippines, Manila (Cum Laude, Top 20 out of 267). After earning her J.D. from Ateneo de Manila University, she was admitted to practice law in the Philippines. She completed her LL.M at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on a Dean’s Merit Scholarship and was admitted to practice in New York.
Licelle currently serves as Vice President and Executive Director of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund/ FALDEF and as Volunteer Attorney at the Migrant Center of New York. She is a past co-chair of the Cardozo Law Masters Alumni Community. She is also a member of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York/ FALA New York and the National Filipino American Lawyers Association/ NFALA.
Licelle has been selected as TimeIsNow’s Global Filipino Trailblazer. She is recognized as one of Women Today’s Women on the Front Rank, Cardozo Life Magazine’s Movers & Shakers and Cardozo Law’s Outstanding Alumni and has been published in Delaware Law.
Licelle is a frequent national and international speaker on U.S. Immigration Law. #