Haiti’s devastating earthquake has brought an outpouring of generosity from governments and individuals around the world. The earthquake has impacted numerous people beyond the borders of the small Caribbean nation. The earthquake also affected U.S. immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made two significant policy changes in the aftermath of the disaster: deportation of Haitian citizens was suspended and Haitians currently present in the United States are eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months (click here for more information).  

TPS beneficiaries are authorized to remain in the United States and obtain employment authorization for a designated period of time (in this case, 18 months). The DHS Secretary may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily 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. The magnitude of the decision to grant TPS is quite significant. In the case of Haiti, DHS estimates that some 100,000 to 200,000 individuals will be eligible for TPS. Although initially granted for 18 months, TPS is commonly extended. For example, TPS for Sudanese nationals has been available since 1997 due to an armed conflict and Hondurans have been eligible for TPS since January 1999 due to the impact of Hurricane Mitch.

What do employers need to know about TPS? Haitian TPS applicants are NOT employment authorized until they can satisfactorily complete a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Individuals with TPS typically satisfy the I-9 document requirement by presenting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For future reference, employers may want to be aware of the discrete way TPS status (and sometimes the underlying employment authorization) is extended – DHS will commonly make a press release and publish a notice in the Federal Register advising that TPS has been extended for nationals of a particular country. As an example, see the USCIS press release on the recent extension of TPS for Sudanese nationals.

For more information on TPS generally, visit the USCIS website.