On September 22, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") announced that it would terminate Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") for individuals from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone on May 21, 2017. Now is a good time for individuals from these countries who currently have TPS to explore their immigration options before their TPS protection ends next May.
Why is TPS ending for people from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone?
Originally, TPS was granted to people from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone because of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in those countries. Since then, DHS has determined that Ebola virus transmission is no longer widespread, so it is ending TPS for those countries.
How does this affect people with TPS from these countries from now until May 21, 2017?
DHS has automatically extended TPS for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone for six months, meaning that, if you are from one of those countries and you currently have TPS, you will maintain that protection through May 20, 2017. Note, however, that if you become ineligible for TPS for another reason, you could still potentially lose your TPS before that date.
You will also automatically maintain your employment authorization through May 20, 2017, even if your current employment authorization document ("EAD") says it expires in November 2016. To continue working legally, you can show your EAD and a copy of the Federal Register notice for Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone to your employer.
You do not need to file any application or pay any fee in order to maintain your TPS and employment authorization from now until May 20, 2017. On May 21, 2017, however, your TPS and employment authorization will terminate.
This announcement does NOT affect TPS for individuals from any other country.
Do people with TPS from these countries have other immigration options?
This announcement does not affect any other type of immigration status (such as lawful permanent residence, DACA, etc.) that an individual with TPS might also have. Therefore, if you are from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone and have TPS, but you also currently have another form of immigration status, this announcement will not affect your other immigration status.
For individuals from one of these three countries who only have TPS, now is a good time to meet with a lawyer to see if you might have another option to remain in the United States. Possibilities for other forms of immigration relief include asylum, valid marriages to United States citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents, having United States citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident relatives, having certain jobs in the United States, or having been a victim of a crime in the United States. It may also be possible to get a travel document from the United States government in order to travel abroad and lawfully reenter the United States, which may increase the types of immigration relief for which you are eligible.
Under the Obama administration's current immigration "enforcement priorities," you may not likely be an immediate target of immigration enforcement once your TPS terminates. However, depending on the outcome of the November 2016 presidential election, these enforcement priorities could change drastically by the time your TPS terminates in May 2017, which could significantly increase your risk of deportation. Because of this uncertainty, the safest option is to explore your immigration options now before any immigration policies change.
Bean + Lloyd, LLP is an immigration law firm in Oakland, California, emphasizing family-based immigration, removal defense, and naturalization.
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