Who is eligible for TPS from Honduras and Nicaragua?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer a reader's question.

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 Honduran and in May 2014 I arrived for the first time in the United States along with my 14 year old son. We were caught by the border patrol and were let out of detention on parole. The immigration officer told us that in the future we will have to appear in immigration court.

Last week I heard that the U.S. government extended TPS to Hondurans and Nicaraguans. Can I and my son sign up for the program? -Janet C.

Janet, Hondurans and Nicaraguans who recently arrived in the United States for the first time are not eligible to enroll in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

Hondurans and Nicaraguans never before registered for TPS may be eligible for late registration if they meet the proper requirements. One of them is to demonstrate that they have lived in the U.S. continuously since December 30, 1998 and have been physically in the country since January 5, 1999.

Janet, although you and your son cannot register for TPS, you may be eligible for other immigration benefits. Please consult with an immigration attorney or federally accredited representative to evaluate your immigration options.

Finally, it is of utmost importance that you appear for your future immigration court hearings. If you fail to do so, the immigration judge will issue an order of deportation in your absence, which will have serious legal consequences.

TPS re-registration process for eligible Hondurans and Nicaraguans

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last week the extension of TPS for Honduras and Nicaragua.

It is estimated that there are approximately 61,000 Hondurans and 2,800 Nicaraguans currently protected under TPS who may be eligible for TPS re-registration.

The re-registration period for Hondurans and Nicaraguans began on October 16, 2014 and will end on December 15, 2014. If they are currently in TPS, they must re-register during this period, otherwise they may lose their TPS.

Re-registration will allow them to legally remain in the U.S. for another 18 months from January 6, 2015 through July 5, 2016. In addition, the validity of work permits under TPS that expire on January 5, 2015 will be automatically extended until July 5, 2015.

To re-register, Hondurans and Nicaraguans must submit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the Forms I-821 e I-765 and send in the appropriate fees. If you do not have enough money to file because you are unemployed, earn less than the poverty level, or receive public benefits such as Medi-Cal or food stamps, you may be eligible to apply for an fee waiver using the Form I-912.

If you need to renew your work permit, submit your renewal application immediately so that USCIS will issue you a new work permit before January 5, 2015, when the current permit expires.

To avoid problems with your employer, print a copy of the official TPS extension notice to show your employer that your work permit has been automatically extended. A copy of the official notice for Honduras can be found here. here and for Nicaragua here.

Individuals who have been convicted of two misdemeanors or one felony are not eligible for TPS. Examples of misdemeanors are drunk driving and committing acts of domestic violence, among others. Consult with an immigration attorney before submitting your re-registration if you have been arrested or found guilty of any crime, including driving without a license.

Keep in mind that although there is a lot of talk about immigration reform, there is no telling when it will happen. That is why it is important for anyone currently protected by TPS to re-register so that they do not lose their legal status while we wait for a change in immigration laws that will provide a definitive path to permanent residency.

TPS does not lead to permanent residency in the U.S. Someday the program will end. When that happens, you will revert to the immigration status you had before, such as being undocumented. If you have no other legal option to stay in the U.S., you will be subject to removal from the country.

Consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your legal options for permanent residency.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog inmigracionhoy.com.

Send your questions to preguntas@consultamigratoria.com. Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions.

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of La Tarjeta Verde: Cómo Obtener la Residencia Permanente en los Estados Unidos (Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residence in the United States). He is a past president of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current president of the Los Angeles Westlake South Neighborhood Council. To contact Mr. Castillo's office, please call (213) 537-VISA (8472).

The purpose of this column is to provide general information. There can be no guarantee or prediction as to what will be the outcome of the information presented by Dr. Nelson A. Castillo. The information should not be taken as legal advice for any individual, case or situation. Consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before beginning any immigration proceedings.