USCIS Announces TPS and Other Relief for Haitians

USCIS has announced that it will grant temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians in the US as of January 12, 2010.  TPS allows individuals from countries facing catastrophes to remain temporarily in the US and also obtain work authorization.  In this case, Haitians will be granted TPS for 18 months.

According to USCIS, “TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible nationals of a certain country (or persons without nationality who last habitually lived in that country) designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security because that country has experienced temporary negative conditions, such as armed conflict or an environmental disaster, that prevent nationals of the country from returning safely or for the country to handle their return adequately.  TPS beneficiaries are allowed to remain in the United States and can legally work for a set time period.”

USCIS will open the registration period on the date the Federal Register notice is published and will continue to accept applications for 180 days from that date. An application will be considered as being properly filed if it is postmarked on or before the last day of the registration period.  The individual must file the Form I-821 and the Form I-765 (for the work authorization).  There are also filing fees involved:  $50 for the Form I-821 TPS, $340 for the I-765 work authorization and an $80 biometrics fee for those 14 years of age or older.  If not applying for work authorization, then the I-765 and filing fee need not be filed.

The supporting documentation includes two passport-style photos, a Haitian passport or birth certificate and evidence of residing in the US since January 12, 2010, and being physically present in the US since the date of the publication of the Federal Register Notice.

USCIS offers the following guidance for those without a Haitian passport or birth certificate:  “If you do not have a Haitian passport and are unable to obtain your birth certificate from Haiti, you will need to submit secondary evidence.  This secondary evidence can be any other documentation you already have in your possession from Haiti, showing that you are a national or citizen of Haiti.  Secondary evidence can also be in the form of your baptismal certificate from Haiti, sworn affidavits from close family members providing the specific details of the date and place of your birth and how they know this information.  If any document is not in English it must be accompanied by an English translation.  The person translating the document must certify that he or she is competent in English and the foreign language from which the document is translated and that the translation is true and correct to the best of his or her ability, knowledge and belief.

If you are a person with no nationality that last habitually resided in Haiti, you must show that you are stateless.  That is, that you have no nationality at all.  You must submit a statement explaining why you are stateless.  You must also submit any documentation you may have from Haiti showing that you last habitually resided there.  If that documentation is not available, you may submit sworn affidavits from close friends and family members who have direct knowledge of your residence in Haiti. Again, any documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation.”

A TPS applicant may still apply for another immigration status and his or her TPS application will not affect the applicant’s current immigration status.

A TPS applicant may apply for travel permission, advance parole, to depart the US while in TPS status.  However, one should be very careful about traveling outside the US, since prior unlawful status could trigger a 3 or 10-year bar to reentry into the US.

According to USCIS, the following indivudals are ineligible for TPS:

  • A person who has been convicted of any felony, or two or more misdemeanors committed in the United States; and
  • A person subject to several other criminal and security-related bars to asylum. This would include participating in the persecution of another individual or engaging in or inciting terrorist activity.