Earlier this week, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced extensions of immigration benefits to Syrian nationals currently living in the United States. Specifically, DHS announced the extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Syria for an additional 18 months, through September 30, 2016. DHS also announced the extension of Syrian F-1 student employment authorization through September 30, 2016. These actions were taken as a result of the ongoing armed conflict in Syria. Employers should alert all company representatives responsible for the completion of I-9 forms about this development.
TPS Extension and Re-Designation
A country can be designated for TPS due to temporary conditions in the country that prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Individuals granted TPS benefits are not removable from the United States, can obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) to work in the United States, and may be granted travel authorization to travel outside the United States. The granting of TPS does not, however, result in or lead to permanent resident status.
Syria was initially designated under the TPS provisions in 2012, with re-designation in 2013. The announced extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Syria for an additional 18 months, from April 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016, allows current TPS beneficiaries from Syria to retain TPS through September 30, 2016, so long as they otherwise continue to meet the eligibility requirements for TPS. The re-designation of Syria for TPS for 18 months, effective April 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016, allows additional individuals who have been continuously residing in the United States since January 5, 2015 to obtain TPS, if otherwise eligible.
For individuals who have already been granted TPS under the 2012 original Syria designation or under the 2013 Syria re-designation, the 60-day re- registration period runs from January 5, 2015 through March 6, 2015. USCIS will issue new EADs with a September 30, 2016 expiration date to eligible Syria TPS beneficiaries who timely re-register and apply for EADs under this extension. DHS recognizes that not all re-registrants will receive new EADs before their current EADs expire on March 31, 2015. Therefore, through a notice in the Federal Register, DHS automatically extended the validity of EADs issued under the TPS designation of Syria for 6 months, through September 30, 2015.
Under the re-designation, individuals who currently do not have TPS (or an initial TPS application pending) may submit an initial application during the 180-day initial registration period that runs from January 5, 2015 through July 6, 2015. Initial applicants for TPS under this re-designation must demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 5, 2015 and meet other eligibility criteria. TPS initial applications that were either filed during 2012 designation or during the 2013 Syria re-designation and remain pending on January 5, 2015 will be treated as initial applications under this 2015 re-designation. Individuals who have a pending initial Syria TPS application will not need to file a new Application for Temporary Protected Status.
F-1 EAD Extension
In 2012, DHS took action to provide temporary relief to Syrian F-1 nonimmigrant students who experienced severe economic hardship because of the civil unrest in Syria. Given the conditions in Syria, affected students
whose primary means of financial support comes from Syria often need to be exempted from the normal student employment requirements to be able to continue their studies in the United States and meet basic living expenses. The action by DHS allows these students to obtain employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school was in session, and reduce their course load while continuing to maintain their F-1 student status. The original notice was effective from April 3, 2012 until October 3, 2013. A subsequent notice provided for an 18-month extension from October 3, 2013 through March 31, 2015. These benefits are now being extended until September 30, 2016.
The extension of F-1 benefits applies to nonimmigrant students whose country of citizenship is Syria and who were lawfully present in the United States in F-1 nonimmigrant status on April 3,2012 who are (1) enrolled in an institution that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified for enrollment of F-1 students; (2) currently maintaining F-1 status; and (3) experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the civil unrest in Syria since March 2011. This extension applies to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as elementary school, middle school, and high school students.