If I have TPS, is there a way to obtain permanent residency?

In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® answers a question from a reader who has TPS and wishes to obtain permanent residency.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on each person's immigration history.

Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before starting any procedure.

This is the column:

I am Salvadoran and I am in the TPS. I saw that they cancelled TPS for Nicaraguans and I am afraid they will do the same for El Salvador. If they cancel TPS for Salvadorans, is there any other way to get papers to work legally or get permanent residency? Carmen R.

Carmen, I understand your fear. I don't like to be an alarmist, but there is reason to be concerned that the U.S. government will eliminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for El Salvador and Honduras.

There is already a strong precedent, with the elimination of TPS for Nicaragua on November 6 and the cancellation of the program for Haiti on November 20.

In announcing the end of TPS for Haiti, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that conditions in that country had improved significantly since the 2010 earthquake and that, therefore, they would be able to return without problems.

But the reality is that Haiti has yet to recover from the multi-billion dollar losses and humanitarian crisis caused by that earthquake 7 years ago, which caused approximately 300,000 deaths, initially displaced 1.5 million people and gave way to a cholera epidemic, which it is still battling. The country was also affected by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

A 2017 United Nations report indicates that half of the population in Haiti lives in poverty and that 2.7 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, 230,000 people remain displaced - 55,000 of them since the 2010 earthquake and 175,000 following Hurricane Matthew last year.

El Salvador did not suffer the magnitude of damage that Haiti did with the 2001 earthquakes, which killed more than 1,200 people and initially displaced 1.6 million, according to United Nations figures. But the country has had 9 more years to rebuild, while hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans enjoyed the protection of TPS.

El Salvador and Honduras are not facing the infrastructure problems or humanitarian crisis that Haiti is experiencing, but they are dealing with other problems, including a wave of violence at the hands of gangs that extort and murder people and have caused an exodus of Salvadorans and Hondurans in search of safety. But will this be enough for DHS to keep TPS in place for Salvadorans and Hondurans?

If Haiti, which remains devastated by the effects of natural disasters and still has more than 30,000 people living in makeshift camps since the 2010 earthquake failed to continue the TPS designation, what can be expected for El Salvador and Honduras?

Currently, time is running out for Nicaraguans as the government canceled TPS with a final extension to fix their status in the United States until January 5, 2019. After that date, they will not be allowed to live and work legally in the country.

Carmen, it is very important to go to an experienced immigration attorney who can thoroughly evaluate your situation and see if you have any options to remain legally in the United States if TPS for El Salvador is eliminated.

You need to see if you qualify for permanent residency through a family or employment-based petition or a humanitarian program such as a U visa. It is impossible to know until you review your immigration history and have a complete picture of your family and employment situation.

Although there has not yet been a decision on TPS for El Salvador and Honduras, any person covered by this benefit should consult an immigration attorney as soon as possible to determine if there are other legal avenues to remain in the United States. Please do not visit notaries, immigration consultants, multiservices or paper fillers because these individuals are not authorized to provide immigration legal advice.