Since January 2021, the Biden administration has greatly expanded the number of immigrants who are eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – a designation that gives them time-limited permission to live and work in the United States and avoid potential deportation.
Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to determine the number of immigrants in the U.S. who are eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The federal government, as directed by the president, determines the countries whose immigrants living in the U.S. would be eligible for TPS. TPS is granted to nationals of designated countries and to those with no nationality, but who last habitually lived in a designated country (immigrants). To apply, immigrants must have continuously lived in the U.S. at or before a date specified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
For this analysis, we analyzed information about the TPS program published on the DHS website; Federal Register announcements about TPS benefits; the text of a bill proposed by congressional Democrats; and information from the Congressional Research Service.
In this analysis, TPS beneficiary numbers for most countries are taken from DHS statistics provided to the Congressional Research Service, which exclude recipients who also have Lawful Permanent Resident status or U.S. citizenship. Some may have left the U.S. or died. For immigrants eligible for TPS from the new designation of Ethiopia and the redesignations of Haiti, Somalia and Yemen, estimates of the number of people eligible were included in the most recent Federal Register notices regarding those countries’ TPS designations.
An estimated 670,000 individuals from 16 countries are either currently registered for TPS or newly eligible for it. The list of countries with active TPS designations now includes Afghanistan, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Syria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.
TPS offers temporary protection from deportation for qualifying immigrants who live in the U.S. and come from designated nations deemed unsafe to return to because of war, natural disasters or other crises. Federal immigration officials may grant TPS status for up to 18 months based on conditions in immigrants’ home countries and may repeatedly extend eligibility if dangerous conditions persist.
The Biden administration recently renewed TPS eligibility for over 280,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan. The administration also recently extended, designated or redesignated TPS protections for an estimated 135,000 eligible immigrants from Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia and Yemen. (Immigrants from the same country can be eligible for TPS under separate designations.) These most recent updates extend protections for affected TPS recipients until at least June 2024.
In giving new TPS protections to immigrants from Ethiopia, Haiti, Somalia and Yemen, the Biden administration cited dangerous conditions in those countries:
- Ethiopia’s designation is due to armed conflict during an ongoing civil war. In the Tigray region, 2 million people – out of a population of 6 million – have been displaced. Climate change has also contributed to inconsistent access to food, water and health care. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 20.4 million Ethiopians may have been food insecure in 2022.
- Haiti’s TPS designation is being extended and redesignated because the country is experiencing multiple emergencies, including gang activity and other humanitarian crises limiting citizens’ access to safety, health care, food, water and economic opportunity, according to a January U.S. Federal Register notice.
- Somalia is receiving a TPS extension and redesignation because of armed conflict in the country and challenges posed by climate change, a lack of health care and food insecurity. While the Islamist group al-Shabab conducts armed insurgency against the Somalian federal government, an estimated 2.9 million Somalians have been internally displaced “due to conflict, drought, lack of livelihood opportunities, and forced evictions from their settlements.”
- Yemen has been extended and redesignated because of ongoing conflict that has contributed to internal population displacement, food insecurity, water scarcity and inadequate access to medical care. In addition, unexploded ordnance and the presence of terrorist organizations contribute to the country’s dangerous living conditions.
The recent expansions continue the Biden administration’s broadening of TPS since 2021. In 2021 and 2022, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the program, added Afghanistan, Cameroon, Myanmar, Ukraine and Venezuela to the list of countries whose immigrants may qualify while extending the terms of eligibility for immigrants from most countries that were already covered by TPS.
The Biden administration’s expansions stand in contrast to the Trump administration’s efforts to end TPS for nearly all beneficiaries, which were blocked by a series of lawsuits. Those lawsuits are ongoing and continue to threaten the future of the TPS program and create uncertainty for its participants.
On his first day as president, Joe Biden asked Congress to pass legislation that would allow TPS recipients who meet certain conditions to apply immediately for green cards that would let them become lawful permanent residents. Green card holders may be granted U.S. citizenship if they pass additional background checks and meet the usual naturalization conditions of knowledge of English and U.S. civics. TPS recipients are not currently eligible for permanent residency or U.S. citizenship unless they pursue those statuses through other immigration processes.
Most TPS recipients have lived in the U.S. for decades
Immigrants with TPS live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, according to the Congressional Research Service. The largest populations live in Florida, Texas, California and New York, which have traditionally had large immigrant populations.
Deferred Enforced Departure also offers protection from deportation
Another form of temporary relief from deportation, called Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), is granted at the president’s discretion, rather than as a result of an administrative process in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It usually follows catastrophes in immigrants’ home countries similar to those that have triggered TPS. Currently, certain immigrants from Liberia and Hong Kong are eligible for this benefit and are also allowed to apply for authorization to work. Liberian immigrants with DED have relief until June 30, 2024, and those from Hong Kong until Feb. 5, 2025.
Once DHS designates a nation’s immigrants as eligible for TPS, those immigrants can apply for the deportation relief if they entered the U.S. without authorization or entered on a temporary visa that has since expired. Those with a valid temporary visa or another non-immigrant status, such as foreign students, are also eligible to apply.
Most current TPS beneficiaries have lived in the U.S. for two decades or more. For example, those from Honduras and Nicaragua were designated eligible based on damage from Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and must have been living in the country since Dec. 30 of that year. The current protection for immigrants from El Salvador applies to those who have lived in the U.S. since Feb. 13, 2001, following a series of earthquakes that killed more than a thousand people and inflicted widespread damage.
To be granted TPS, applicants must meet filing deadlines, pay a fee, and prove they have lived in the U.S. continuously since the events that triggered relief from deportation. They must also meet criminal record requirements – for example, that they have not been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors while in the U.S.; persecuted others; or engaged in terrorism.
Federal officials are required to announce 60 days before any TPS designation expires whether it will be extended. Without a decision, it automatically extends six months.
Congress and President George H.W. Bush authorized the TPS program in the 1990 immigration law, granting the White House executive power to designate and extend the status to immigrants in the U.S. based on certain criteria.
Note: This is an update of a post originally published Oct. 28, 2021.