Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced last week a temporary protected status ("TPS") for Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. The temporary status will allow eligible Haitian nationals to continue living and working in the United States for the next 18 months. "Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this administration's continuing efforts to support Haiti's recovery," said Napolitano in a statement. Click here to read Napolitano's complete statement.

The temporary status is intended to allow Haitian nationals to stay for 18 months, authorize them to work and send remittances back to Haiti to help the nation "get back on its feet." However, Haitians who now attempt to travel to the United States will not be eligible for the temporary status and will be repatriated to Haiti.

Employers should be aware that Haitian nationals may be legally authorized to work in the United States under the TPS program without being able to present documents that would normally satisfy the requirements of form I9. Employers should review the TPS eligibility for any Haitian nationals who do apply for work. Haitians in the U.S. who may be eligible to apply for TPS should call U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service toll-free at (800) 375-5283.