It is hurricane season in Florida, but I am writing with emergency preparedness advice. I am writing about the lingering effects of Hurricane Mitch, which struck Central America in 1998, killing more than 11,000 people, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes, and causing more than $5 billion in damage. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua were hit especially hard, and since 1999, the United States has offered Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to qualifying citizens of these three countries who were present in the U.S., whether lawfully or not, at the time. The United States has repeatedly extended TPS status in 18 month increments. In May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended TPS status for qualifying citizens of Honduras and Nicaragua – from July 6, 2016 to January 5, 2018. On July 8, DHS also extended TPS status for citizens of El Salvador – from September 10, 2016 to March 9, 2018.

Employers must be aware of the TPS extension announcements because, with each announcement, the DHS automatically extends the work authorization of applicants while they await the production and delivery of new Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). Citizens of Nicaragua and Honduras in the TPS program had EADs that expired July 5, 2016. The DHS automatically extended their EADs to January 5, 2017. These individuals will get new EADs valid to January 5, 2018.

In the case of citizens of El Salvador in the TPS program, their EADs will expire on September 9, 2016. Their EAD cards are automatically extended to March 9, 2017. Eventually, El Salvadorans in extended TPS status will receive a new EAD card valid to March 9, 2018.

The EADs for citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua will bear the designation “A-12” or “C-19” on the face of the card under “Category.” Employers will need to update the Form I-9 of existing employees to note the automatic extension and will have to re-verify the Form I-9 when the automatic extension expires.

Employers who participate in E-Verify will receive a “Work Authorization Documents Expiring” case alert. For existing employees with TPS EADs that have been automatically extended, USCIS instructs employers to dismiss the E-Verify case alert by clicking the red “X” in the “dismiss alert” column and to update the employee’s Form I-9.