On August 31, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a policy change relating to the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. TPS is a program that allows individuals from other countries to remain in the US and be granted work authorization if they meet the specific requirements for the TPS process applicable to their country. Many countries with TPS designations are those who have experienced significant disruptions to their infrastructures making it unsafe for the individual to return to their home. Typically this occurs after a major natural disaster.
Since TPS is not a path to citizenship itself, it is possible for TPS holders to obtain legal permanent residency if they are eligible for another form of immigration relief. For most, this means a green card through family or work sponsorship or even a U visa for those who have been victims of a crime. Depending on how the individual entered the US, it may not be enough to just have a sponsor since they may also have what is called unlawful presence as a result of entering the US without a visa. It is necessary to correct this problem if the person wants to have their interview in the US or to remove any bars against reentry if they need to leave the country for their interview.
The recent policy change announced by USCIS eliminates a valuable option for these immigrants working on their green card processes. In the past, TPS holders seeking residency were able to apply for what is called advance parole that was used to forgive or eliminate the problems associated with unlawful entries into the US. Essentially advance parole is permission to return to the US after a brief exit, but this new policy change, it also was treated as an inspection by the government that resulted in “curing” the problems associated with unlawful entries. This would then allow green card seekers the ability to change their status to an immigrant while in the US or interviewing in the US instead of abroad.
USCIS has now taken the position that congress did not intend for TPS holders to use the advance parole process as a “loophole” to “fix their papers” while in the US and avoiding the punishments resulting from unauthorized entry and it will no longer allow this process to be used to help TPS holders to more easily obtain their green cards.
USCIS released new guidance on DACA that basically followed the predictions and recommendations that this office has been making for the last 2 months. Officially, USCIS will reject all new DACA applications and will limit renewals to only one year. Existing two-year renewals will not be affected, but any future renewal requests will only be for one year. Additionally, USCIS will reject DACA renewal applications received more than 150 days before the current DACA period expires. The agency has recommended that applicants file for renewals between 120 and 150 days before their status expires. Lastly, USCIS has re-opened, but limited the availability of advanced parole travel requests for DACA recipients to leave the country only for urgent humanitarian reasons or a significant public benefit. No longer will they approve requests based on work or school trips.
In other news from USCIS, on august 26th, it was announced that it would no longer continue with the plan to furlough 70% of its workforce. But since they are still at critical funding levels, however, severe spending cuts and increases to fees will be used to keep operations moving. This is great news for people with pending processes as well as new requests for immigration benefits since a decrease in the workforce would dramatically increase wait times for all processes in an era where processing times are already at an all-time high.