Why Salvadorans should hurry to re-register for TPS

The re-registration period for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for the 212,000 Salvadorans eligible for the benefit is just three weeks away. The re-registration period that began on January 9 comes to an end on Monday, March 12.

In my column this week in La OpiniónI explain why I recommend not to wait until the last minute and how to speed up the process:

I suggest that you do the re-enrollment process electronically (e-filing), so you will get an immediate receipt and avoid the possibility of the application getting lost in the mail. This option is not available for late initial enrollment or late re-enrollment.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does not charge for TPS re-registration, but you do have to pay $85 for fingerprints and $380 for the work permit, if you need it. If you apply online, you can pay by debit or credit card.

If you do not have the money to pay the fees you can get a fee waiver, if you are eligible. This option is only available for applications sent by regular mail.

If I stress so much the need to hurry is to avoid complications with government delays in processing applications. As you know, Salvadorans under TPS have work permits that show an expiration date of March 9, but whose validity was automatically extended until September 9, 2012. However, in 2010, there were cases of state government agencies erroneously not recognizing the validity of permits extended for Salvadorans in different parts of the country.

Two weeks ago, history repeated itself for a group of Hondurans under TPS in Indiana. Their re-registration period ended on January 5, 2012, the expiration date marked on their documents, but automatically extended until July 5, 2012.

When they went to renew their driver's licenses, representatives from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles said they were not eligible for renewal and refused to process them. I had to intervene as an attorney, contacting the highest officials of the agency, in order to resolve the problem and correct the error.

Do not expect this to happen to you. Don't count on the government to process all applications on time. Submit your application as soon as possible and protect yourself from potential problems at work, benefit agencies such as unemployment, and of course, your valuable driver's license.