By:  Richard Hanus, Esq.

Published March 6, 2022

When grave humanitarian crises arise around the world, the U.S. government has the power to provide protection to citizens of impacted nations present in the U.S. by designating those foreign nationals for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  Whether the crisis is due to war, natural disaster or other extraordinary humanitarian circumstances, TPS allows foreign nationals of that country present in the U.S., and no matter their immigration status, to live and work here for a specified period.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. last week announced that Ukrainians present in the U.S. as of March 1 would be shielded from deportation and eligible for TPS – a designation set to last for at least 18 months.  Prospective applicants will have to navigate an administrative process and undergo security screenings, and it is expected that U.S. Department of Homeland Security will start receiving applications in the coming weeks.

With the recent announcement, approximately 30,000 Ukrainians present in the U.S. will be eligible to apply to be formally accorded TPS, which includes eligibility to receive an Employment Authorization Document.  Ukraine is now added to the list of countries currently designated for TPS including Burma, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

With a TPS designation, confusion often arises among impacted foreign nationals as far as the significance of being accorded TPS and what it means with regard to a more permanent path to remain here.  In sum, qualifying for TPS does not also mean automatically qualifying for asylum or permanent status (green card) in the U.S.

Qualifying for TPS eligibility depends on an applicant satisfying certain relatively straightforward requirements, most notably that they are a national of the TPS designated nation, present in the U.S. at a particular time and having no significant criminal history in their background.

Qualifying for asylum and eventually permanent resident status in the U.S. involves a much lengthier and more complicated set of requirements.  Most notably, an asylum applicant must demonstrate they have a well founded fear of being persecuted back in their home country due to their race, religion, political belief or social group.   For a citizen of Ukraine or Russia, for example, such a fear of returning home could now very well be premised on one’s political belief, and the extent they would fear for their life or liberty if they might dare to speak out about Russia’s aggression or anti-democratic ways of governing.  Additionally, the asylum process requires an applicant to pass an in-depth interview, and in some cases, the applicant must even endure a contested court hearing.

Only after being granted asylum will a foreign national be on a smooth path toward lawful permanent resident (green card) status, and eventually U.S. citizenship.

Any foreign national contemplating applying for TPS or asylum should be sure to first obtain guidance and feedback from competent immigration counsel.

PUBLISHED March 6, 2022– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2022, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois