Articles Posted in TPS

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The Department of Homeland Security is currently under pressure to provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ecuadorians, following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Northern coast of Ecuador on April 16, causing nearly 600 fatalities. Dozens of people remain missing under the rubble, while thousands of Ecuadorians have sustained injuries. The Obama administration is expected to respond to a request from American lawmakers, which would allow Ecuadorians physically present in the United States, to apply for an extension of stay to remain in the country temporarily. Furthermore, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other politicians have called on the Obama administration to intervene, by designating Ecuador as a country temporarily eligible to receive Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In a statement issued last week, De Blasio noted that New York City alone is home to nearly 140,000 Ecuadorian immigrants. Many of these New Yorkers face additional uncertainty about whether it is safe for them to return to Ecuador at this time. We must extend whatever support we can at this critical moment.” Approximately 143,000 Ecuadorians currently reside in the United States illegally in the states of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Florida.

The administration is also being pressured by lawmakers to extend temporary protected status to migrants from Central America, due to the criminal and security concerns in the region including gang violence. The administration has not yielded to this pressure as of yet.

Enacted by the United States Immigration Act of 1990, TPS allows the government to extend the stay of foreign nationals whose countries have been affected by war, civil unrest, violence, natural disasters, or other emergent needs that concern the safety of foreign nationals from troubled regions. The provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allow this temporary status to exist, as well as other blanket forms of relief from removal of individuals from these affected regions. Under the INA, the executive branch and legislative branch are authorized to grant TPS as relief from removal for individuals from designated countries. The Secretary of Homeland Security and Secretary of State, are given the authority to issue TPS for a period of 6 to 18 months that can be extended if conditions remain the same in the designated countries. TPS recipients receive a registration document and temporary employment authorization for the duration that the foreign national is granted Temporary Protected Status. Temporary Protected Status is NOT a visa or a path to permanent residence. Foreign nationals who have been found inadmissible to the United States or in other words have been subject to a “bar” are not eligible to receive Temporary Protected States.

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On Thursday, December 31, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security published a new proposed rule affecting highly skilled immigrant and non-immigrant workers alike. The proposed rule, introduced in last week’s federal register, aims to improve the ability of American employers to hire and retain highly skilled workers waiting to receive their employment-based lawful permanent residence in the visa bulletin backlogs. Additionally, the proposed rule aims to enhance opportunities for such workers allowing them to be more easily promoted, to accept lateral positions with their current employers, change employers, and pursue other employment. While the proposed rule is not groundbreaking, it does address important challenges employers and their highly skilled workers have faced as the law stands today and makes recommendations for such relief. The proposed rule will be open for comment until February 29, 2016.

You may remember that on November 20, 2014 the President highlighted, as part of his executive actions on immigration, that the employment-based immigration system needed to be amended to modernize, improve, and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs in order to create more jobs, foster innovation at home, retain a highly skilled workforce that would allow the United States to compete with other countries, and to stimulate the American economy overall.  In order to modernize the employment based immigration system, USCIS would be required to work with the Department of State to modernize and simplify the immigrant visa allocation process. Part of this process would require the Department of State to make reasoned projections of employment-based immigrant visa availability on the visa bulletin, that could be relied upon by employers and their highly skilled workers.

Presently, immigrant workers from India and China are experiencing extraordinary delays in the employment-based queue for permanent residence, while other highly skilled workers are forced to wait over a five-year period to receive company sponsorship and lawful permanent residence. Furthermore, such workers are forced to remain on temporary employment-sponsored visas in the United States while waiting for an immigrant visa to become available to them. This puts the immigrant worker in a predicament giving the employer the upper hand, while restricting the employee from seeking advancement and discouraging new employment, since this would require the employer to file a new petition and incur the expensive fees required for filing. Highly skilled works facing extortionate delays in the visa backlogs have experienced hindered employer/employee career advancement and job mobility. The new rules will provide limited relief in this area.

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By Yingfei Zhou, Esq.

The federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently ruled that a noncitizen’s grant of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) qualifies as “inspection and admission” into the United States. This decision follows the similar decisions issued by the Sixth Circuit of Appeals and the District Court for the Western District of Washington. This new ruling will affect a group of TPS beneficiaries who fall within the geographic boundaries covered by the court and are seeking to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen.

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to the conditions (such as ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions) in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.

The sole issue in the matter is whether the grant of TPS is sufficient to meet the requirement of being “inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States for purposes of adjustment of status. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), inspection and admission are eligibility requirements for adjustment of status to LPR. In other words, only individuals who were “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the U.S. by an immigration officer may apply for LPR status from inside the U.S. Those who crossed the border without passing through an official checkpoint must leave the country to have their paperwork processed by the U.S. consulate abroad to obtain the LPR status. Departing U.S. to have paperwork processed from abroad might cause penalties to the immigrants or have them facing the dangerous conditions that merited the TPS designation.

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