Why it is important to re-register for TPS

This week in my Consulta Migratoria column, I explain why eligible Salvadorans should re-register for the Temporary Protected Status program.

This is the column:

With less than a week to go before the deadline to re-register for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for Salvadorans, almost half of those eligible have not yet done so. This is alarming, because if they do not re-register, they could lose the status that allows them to live and work in the country legally.

According to the most current figures, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has only received a total of 119,600 applications between May 30, 2013, when the deadline opened, and July 21, 2013. Of that number, USCIS has accepted 117,000 applications for processing and rejected more than 1,600.

The most common reasons for rejection of applications are lack of required information on the forms and failure to comply with re-enrollment requirements.

There are approximately 212,000 Salvadorans currently protected under TPS who may be eligible for TPS re-registration. Several people have commented to me that they want to save the costs of TPS re-registration, since immigration reform is coming and they will have to pay fines.

Unfortunately, waiting for immigration reform and not protecting your current legal status is a huge mistake. Although the U.S. Senate recently passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the U.S. House of Representatives has yet to pass one of their own and there is talk that they will not introduce a legal bill until September. Even then, it remains to be seen if they can get the necessary support to pass it, as a large number of congressmen oppose a legalization program for millions of undocumented people currently living in the country.

Given the uncertainty of the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, every Salvadoran eligible for TPS should re-register so as not to lose their legal status while we await a change in immigration laws that would provide a definitive path to permanent residency.

The last day for re-registration is July 29, 2013. If you do not register during this period, you may lose your TPS.

The great advantage of TPS protection is that it allows Salvadorans enrolled in the program to remain legally in the United States for another 18 months from September 10, 2013 through March 9, 2015.

Please note that the validity of work permits under TPS that expire on September 9, 2013 will be automatically extended until March 9, 2014.

To re-register, Salvadorans must submit Forms I-821 and I-765 and send the corresponding fees to USCIS.

Re-registration fees are $$85 for fingerprinting (children under 14 are exempt) and $$380 for a work permit, if needed.

I recommend that you file electronically (e-filing). This way you will get an immediate receipt, avoiding the possibility of the application getting lost in the mail. This option is not available for late initial enrollment or late re-enrollment.

If you need to renew your work permit, submit your renewal application immediately so that USCIS will provide you with a new work permit before September 9, 2013 when the current permit expires. Print a copy of the official notification of the extension of TPS in case your employer needs to verify that your work permit has been automatically extended.

If you do not have enough money to file because you are unemployed, earn below the poverty level, or receive public benefits such as Medi-Cal, Medicaid, or food stamps, you may be eligible to apply for a fee waiver using Form I-912.

Persons who have been convicted of two misdemeanors or one felony are not eligible for TPS.

Salvadorans never before registered for TPS may be eligible for late registration if they meet the proper requirements.

TPS does not lead to permanent residency in the United States. 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 United States, 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.