The Ebola virus pandemic in West Africa has precipitated an expansion of the United States’ Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation, as announced by the Department of Homeland Security just last week. As a result, eligible nationals of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who are currently residing in the United States may apply for TPS through USCIS. TPS designations for the three countries are effective as of Nov. 21, 2014, and will be in effect during the next 18 months.

While TPS designation does not provide a road to becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States, it does accord designees with the protection of not being returned to their home countries during the attendant validity period; it also provides for work authorization while in the United States.

In addition to being a national of one of the countries, or a “person without nationality who last habitually resided in one of those three countries,” the eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • Establish that the applicant has been “continuously residing” in the United States since Nov. 20, 2014; and
  • Establish that the applicant has been “continuously physically present in” the United States since Nov. 21, 2014.

Applicants should expect to undergo thorough security and background checks as a part of the application process. While fees can range from $50 for children to $515 for adults, applicants can request that USCIS waive any or all fees based on demonstrated inability to pay by filing Form I-912.

Please note that Liberians currently covered under the two-year extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) based on President Obama’s Sept. 26, 2014 memorandum may apply for TPS. If they do not apply for TPS within the initial 180-day registration period, however, they risk being ineligible for TPS because they will have missed the initial registration period.