While temporary protected status (TPS) allows certain immigrants to live and work in the U.S., this status is not permanent. One of the easiest ways to remain in the U.S. is by using the TPS adjustment of status process to get a green card. Once you have your green card, you’ll no longer need to fear deportation if your TPS status changes or expires because you’ll be a permanent U.S. resident. This article explains the requirements for successfully changing from temporary protected status to permanent U.S. residency.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
What Is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?
Congress enacted TPS in 1990. Today, TPS is a status given by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to certain countries deemed as unsafe. These countries are often granted TPS because of an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary but temporary conditions. This includes nations such as Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Ukraine.
Anyone who is a national of a country with TPS status is eligible to apply for TPS. Having Temporary Protected Status can temporarily pause removal proceedings, too. This allows you to remain in the United States if you are at risk of deportation. As a TPS beneficiary, you will receive legal status under immigration law, travel authorization to leave and return to the United States with an advance parole document, and work authorization with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Who Is Eligible for TPS?
To be eligible for TPS, you must:
Currently be in the United States
Be the national of a country with TPS status or a person who last habitually lived in a qualifying country
File for status during a specific initial registration period or re-registration period. If you file after the designated time period, you must meet the additional requirements for late filing. These requirements are country-specific.
Have been continuously physically present in the United States since the most recent designation date for your country
Have been continuously residing in the United States since the date specified for your country
Not be inadmissible to the United States for criminal or security-related reasons
Can You Get TPS Status if You Unlawfully Entered the Country?
In June 2021, the Supreme Court issued a ruling to address whether receiving TPS status met the standard of “inspected and admitted or paroled” required to apply for adjustment of status. Essentially, this ruling says that TPS recipients who entered the United States unlawfully cannot use their TPS status as a basis to start the adjustment of status application process.
Generally, someone must have been “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the United States to be eligible for adjustment of status. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), being “admitted” usually means someone presented themself at a port of entry with immigration documents and immigration authorities formally admitted them to the country. “Paroled” is when someone enters to lawfully pursue parole, such as Advance Parole or humanitarian parole.
Previously, the Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal had found that being granted TPS status counted as an “admission.” However, the Eleventh, Fifth, and Third Circuits found that it did not count.
The recent Supreme Court decision settled this disagreement between jurisdictions. It determined that TPS holders who entered unlawfully do not meet the admission requirement for the purposes of adjustment of status. Instead, they will have to apply through consular processing to receive a green card.
TPS Adjustment of Status — the Easiest Path to a Green Card
TPS adjustment of status is not the only path to a green card. However, it is much easier than consular processing, where you have to leave the United States. Under this process, you would need to return to your home country and then apply for an immigrant visa. But with adjustment of status, you can apply from within the United States.
You cannot obtain a green card directly through TPS. However, you can separately apply to become a lawful permanent resident. For example, if your immediate relative is a U.S. citizen or you separately apply for asylum status, you could then qualify.
If you have to leave the United States and apply through consular processing, you will have to undergo an interview with an immigration official. This can be risky because you may be found inadmissible due to the previous time you spent in the United States without lawful status. “Inadmissible” means that you cannot immigrate to or even enter the United States for a while.
If you spent 180 days unlawfully in the United States and then voluntarily left, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may bar you for three years. However, if you spent more than one continuous year in the United States without status, USCIS may bar you for five years. There are waivers for these bars, but it is quite challenging to qualify for one. You may want to seek legal advice from an immigration lawyer if you hope to pursue a waiver for a bar of inadmissibility.
When Can You File for an Adjustment of Status?
You should file for lawful permanent resident status (LPR status) if you qualify through one of these circumstances:
You are married to a U.S. citizen.
You have sponsorship or a job offer from a U.S. employer.
You are applying for asylum status.
However, you should not seek status if you did not receive lawful admission into the United States. This requirement applies if you did not receive admission when you initially entered or when you most recently entered.
Can You Adjust Status if Your TPS Has Expired?
To lawfully remain in the United States, you must keep your TPS status current. Otherwise, you could risk facing deportation or removal proceedings. If your status has expired, you can pursue other options, including:
Applying for asylum status, if you qualify
Using different legal immigration statuses you had before becoming a TPS beneficiary
Applying for different nonimmigrant statuses or visas
Applying to adjust status through sponsorship from an immediate relative or employer
Applying for naturalization as a U.S. citizen, if you qualify
What Other Options Do You Have if TPS Adjustment of Status Won’t Work?
If you cannot apply for TPS adjustment of status, you can try to find another basis for qualifying for a green card. For example, you could apply for asylum and then an asylum-based green card. Otherwise, you can consider leaving the United States, re-entering legally, and requesting TPS status again. You should only pursue this if you have less than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States. However, this strategy can be risky, so it is best to speak to an immigration lawyer before pursuing this option.
If it’s possible and safe to do so, you can also consider returning to your home country. There, as a foreign national, you will apply for an immigration visa at a U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy. Furthermore, you could request a USCIS review of your application denial. You may be able to apply for a waiver for your reason of inadmissibility.
Finally, if you are facing removal proceedings, you can request relief from the immigration judge. You will likely have to prove how your removal will cause significant hardship to a family member such as a child or elderly parent.
TPS adjustment of status can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the adjustment of status process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit, we may be able to refer you to an experienced immigration attorney to help. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!