On May 22, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security first announced a new designation of the country of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The TPS program provides temporary protections in the U.S. to eligible nationals of countries whose conditions prevent a safe return. In Haiti, serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources—including food, water, and healthcare—have all been compounded by the COIVD-19 pandemic. The country is also suffering the persistent, lingering effects of the 2010 earthquake.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published formal notice of Haiti’s TPS designation in the Federal Register on August 3, 2021, establishing the 18-month period of TPS from August 3, 2021, through February 3, 2023. Haitian nationals (and those without a nationality but who last resided in Haiti) who have resided in the U.S. since June 29, 2021, and have been physically present in the U.S. since August 3, 2021, may apply for TPS during this 18-month period. TPS applicants must demonstrate that they meet the eligibility criteria of 8 USC §1254a(c)(1)-(2).
Also on August 3, 2021, DHS published a notice in the Federal Register to offer employment authorization for Haitian F-1 nonimmigrant students experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current crisis in Haiti. With this notice, DHS is suspending certain requirements related to F-1 employment and permitting F-1 students with Haitian citizenship to reduce their course to six (undergraduate) or three (graduate) credit hours per semester and still be considered a full-time student. These students may work an increased number of hours while school is in session and still maintain valid F-1 nonimmigrant status. The rationale for this policy change is the same as the reasons that DHS designated Haiti for TPS—the current crisis in Haiti has created financial barriers for F-1 nonimmigrant students, which could interfere with their ability to support themselves, continue their education, and meet basic living expenses. Rather than requiring them to apply for TPS, this policy permits them to retain F-1 student status.
Haitian nationals who apply for and receive TPS are eligible to remain in the U.S., may not be removed, and are authorized to obtain work and travel authorization so long as they continue to meet the requirements of TPS. To apply for TPS, individuals submit a Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, to USCIS and pay the associated filing fees. Employment and travel authorization require separate applications—Forms I-765 and I-131—along with respective filing fees.
Haiti was initially designated for TPS in January 2010 after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake and redesignated in 2011. The TPS designation was extended—based on continuing extraordinary conditions—in 2013, 2015, and 2017. In 2018, a Federal Register notice announced the termination of Haiti’s TPS designation, but federal court injunctions prevented that termination from taking effect. Current beneficiaries should apply under the new designation to ensure continuity of their TPS status and benefits.
Individuals who believe they qualify for TPS are encouraged to consult with a T&S legal professional to evaluate their eligibility.