On November 8, 2013, the most powerful cyclone to ever make landfall struck the Philippines head-on. With sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, Typhoon Haiyan took the lives of almost 10,000 people and destroyed  the infrastructure across a broad area of the central Philippine islands. Major cities like Tacloban were levelled, leaving no way to feed or house the thousands of people made homeless by the storm.

The loss of life, property and infrastructure makes the Philippines a perfect candidate for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 

Temporary Protected Status is available to immigrants who are unable to safely return to their home country because of war, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary – and temporary – events such as earthquakes, tsunamis or typhoons.

An example of how Temporary Protected Status works can be found in Haiti. After the catastrophic earthquake of January 2010, the country was granted TPS for several reasons, including:

  • Cholera outbreaks
  • High unemployment rate
  • Lawlessness, including forced evictions

Haitian citizens in the U.S., like all beneficiaries of TPS, do not receive a change in their immigration status. However, if a person’s home country is TPS-designated, it does grant them the ability to legally work – and pursue other legal means of becoming a permanent resident.

Haiti’s TPS was recently extended under the following rationale:

  • There continue to be extraordinary and temporary conditions in Haiti that prevent Haitian nationals from returning to Haiti in safety. See INA section 244(b)(1)(C), 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(1)(C).

  • It is not contrary to the national interest of the United States to permit Haitians (and persons who have no nationality who last habitually resided in Haiti) who meet the eligibility requirements of TPS to remain in the United States temporarily. See INA section 244(b)(1)(C), 8 U.S.C. 1254a(b)(1)(C).

  • The designation of Haiti for TPS should be extended for an additional 18-month period from July 23, 2014 through January 22, 2016.

Like Haiti, the Philippines faces logistical challenges in delivering basic utilities like water and electricity to the people already there. Combined with the potential for contagious disease outbreaks, a lack of work and the absence of law and order, the Philippines deserves to be granted Temporary Protected Status.

USCIS grants small windows of opportunity to apply for TPS and therefore any national from Philippines who is in the U.S. or plans to be soon, should be alert and ready to apply as soon as that window opens. Usually when the window closes applications can only be submitted in situations of extenuating circumstances and must be thoroughly documented. Make sure to know which experienced attorney you will work with before it is too late.

  Steve Maggi SMA Law Firm smaggi@smalawyers.com (212) 402-6885