Seyfarth Synopsis: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an important policy change that will benefit noncitizens holding Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The new policy permits USCIS to issue a new TPS travel authorization document, amending the previous mechanism required for TPS to receive foreign travel permission. This policy change is significant because noncitizens who enter on this new TPS travel authorization will now be considered as “inspected and admitted,” and accordingly may qualify for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (green card) status with an underlying employment-based or family-based immigrant visa petition.
On July 1, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a Policy Memorandum: Rescission of Matter of Z-R-Z-C– as an Adopted Decision; agency interpretation of authorized travel by TPS beneficiaries, announcing a new pathway for persons granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to travel outside the United States and be readmitted in a legal status that would allow them, in certain circumstances, to qualify for lawful permanent residency.
This memorandum, written in close consultation with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of General Counsel (DHS OGC), is an attempt to better harmonize and administer decades of TPS protocols that have been at times inconsistent or infeasible for TPS holders as well as their dependents and other family members. Just last year, the Supreme Court held, in Sanchez v. Mayorkas, that while a grant of TPS could not be considered an admission, it still constituted a “kind of lawful status” which USCIS has interpreted to make the shortcomings of Matter of Z-R-Z-C- warrant a rescission. (Sanchez v. Mayorkas, 141 S. Ct. 1809 (2021)).
Created by Congress in 1990, TPS is available to eligible noncitizens present in the United States who are nationals of a foreign country that has been designated for temporary protection by the Secretary of Homeland Security. These countries currently include Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Cameroon, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen. All designations of countries for TPS are discretionary, and before any such designation can occur, the DHS Secretary must make a formal finding that conditions in the particular country meet one or more alternative statutory criteria, namely, the presence of ongoing armed conflicts, environmental disasters, or “extraordinary and temporary conditions.”
In general, a noncitizen physically present in the United States who meets the TPS statutory criteria may be granted temporary protection regardless of one’s underlying immigration status and regardless of the lawful or unlawful manner of entry into the country. Broadly, TPS provides protection from removal by DHS, carries with it the inherent right of work authorization incident to TPS status, and allows for the submission to USCIS of an application for advance permission to travel abroad and be readmitted to the US. The USCIS July 1 Policy Memorandum (discussed below) addresses the new process envisioned by the agency for granting pre-departure consent to travel abroad and be readmitted, and explains potential eligibility to qualify for adjustment of status.