DHS Extends TPS for Honduras and Nicaragua

On October 16, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published notice in the Federal Register announcing that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson has extended the designations of Honduras and Nicaragua for temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months from January 5, 2015 through July 5, 2016. There are approximately 61,000 nationals of Honduras and 2,800 nationals of Nicaragua (or aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in these countries) who may be eligible for reregistration. The extension of the TPS designations of Honduras and Nicaragua is effective January 6, 2015 and will remain in effect through July 5, 2016. The 60-day reregistration period begins on October 16, 2014 and will remain in effect until December 15, 2014.

Honduras and Nicaragua were first designated for TPS in 1999 due to the devastation resulting from Hurricane Mitch; TPS was subsequently extended nine times.  Based upon DHS’ and the Department of State’s (DOS’) continued review of conditions in these countries, the Secretary of DHS has concluded that an 18-month extension is warranted because there continues to be a substantial, but temporary, disruption in living conditions in Honduras and Nicaragua resulting from Hurricane Mitch and subsequent events and these countries remain unable, temporarily, to adequately handle the return of their nationals.

The notice extending TPS for Hondurans is published in 79 Fed. Reg. 62170 (Oct. 16, 2014); the notice extending TPS for Nicaraguans is published in 79 Fed. Reg. 62176 (Oct. 16, 2014). TPS benefits include temporary protection against removal from the U.S. and employment authorization during the TPS designation period.

The notices set forth procedures for nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua (or aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in one of these countries) with TPS to reregister and to apply for renewal of their employment authorization documents (EADs) (Form I-766). Reregistration is limited to persons who have previously registered for TPS and whose applications have been granted. Certain nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua (or aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in one of these countries) who have not previously applied for TPS may be eligible to apply under the late initial registration provisions if they meet: (1) at least one of the late initial filing criteria; and (2) all TPS eligibility criteria (including continuous residence in the U.S. since December 30, 1998 and continuous physical presence in the U.S. since January 5, 1999).

To register or reregister for TPS under these extensions, an applicant must submit Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status. If the application is for late initial registration, the I-821 fee is required; if it is for reregistration, no fee is required. Applicants must also file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether an EAD is requested; however, no I-765 fee is required if an EAD is not requested. Reregistration applicants desiring an EAD must pay the I-765 fee (or request a fee waiver). Applicants for late initial registration who want an EAD must pay the I-765 fee only if they are 14 to 65 years old. Biometric fees are required for all applicants 14 years of age or older. If a filing fee or biometric fee is required, but the applicant is unable to pay it, he or she may request a fee waiver by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a personal letter requesting the waiver and providing satisfactory supporting documentation.

USCIS urges all reregistering applicants to file as soon as possible within the 60-day reregistration period so that USCIS can promptly process the applications and issue EADs. Filing early will also allow those applicants who may receive denials of their fee waiver requests to have time to pay the appropriate fees and refile their applications before the reregistration deadline. If, however, an applicant receives a denial of his or her fee waiver request and is unable to refile with the appropriate fees by the reregistration deadline, the applicant may still refile his or her applications. This situation will constitute good cause for late reregistration.  However, applicants are urged to refile within 45 days of the date on their USCIS fee waiver denial notice if at all possible.

Applications for reregistration filed during the reregistration period that do not require supporting documents or evidence may be e-filed. For those reregistering through the U.S. Postal Service and those who were granted TPS by an immigration judge (IJ) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and wish to request an EAD, must mail reregistration applications and fees to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Attn: TPS Honduras or Attn: TPS Nicaragua P.O. Box 6943, Chicago, IL 60680-6943. Late initial filings must be mailed to the above address, or, for courier deliveries, sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Attn: TPS Honduras or Attn: TPS Nicaragua, 131 S. Dearborn–3rd Floor, Chicago, IL 60603-5517.

New EADs with a July 5, 2016, expiration date will be issued to eligible TPS beneficiaries who timely reregister and apply for EADs. USCIS will not issue interim EADs; however, given the timeframes involved with processing TPS reregistration applications, there is a possibility that all reregistrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs expire on January 5, 2015. Accordingly, the notice automatically extends the validity of EADs issued under the TPS designation of Honduras or Nicaragua for six months, through July 5, 2015.

Individuals with EADs that have been automatically extended for six months– i.e. that have an expiration date of January 5, 2015 and that state “A-12” or “C-19” under “Category”–may present their automatically extended EADs to their employer as proof of identity and employment authorization for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, through July 5, 2015. To minimize confusion over this extension at the time of hire, these individuals may also show a copy of the Federal Register notice regarding the automatic extension of employment authorization through July 5, 2015, to their employers. These individuals may also choose to present any other acceptable document from List A or List B plus List C.

Employers do not need to reverify employment authorization for those who receive the six-month automatic EAD extension until July 5, 2015. However, they must correct the employment authorization expiration dates in Sections 1 and 2 of Form I-9 by drawing a line through the expiration date, writing “July 5, 2015,” above the previous date, writing “TPS Ext.” in the margin of Sections 1 and 2, and initialing and dating the correction in the margin of Sections 1 and 2.

When using an automatically extended EAD to fill out Form I-9 for a new job prior to July 5, 2015, the worker and his or her employer should check “An alien authorized to work” in Section 1, write the worker’s alien number (A-number) in the first space of Section 1, write the automatic extension date (July 5, 2015) in the second space of section 1, and, in Section 2, record the document title, document number, and the automatically extended EAD expiration date. No later than July 5, 2015, when the automatic extension of EADs expires, employers must reverify the employee’s authorization in Section 3.

Employers who participate in E-Verify will receive a “Work Authorization Documents Expiring” case alert when a TPS beneficiary’s EAD is about to expire. Usually, this message is an alert to complete Section 3 of Form I-9 to reverify an employee’s employment authorization. For existing employees with TPS EADs that have been automatically extended, employers should dismiss this alert by clicking the red “X” in the “dismiss alert” column and follow the instructions above for correcting the Form I-9. By July 5, 2015, employment authorization must be reverified in Section 3.

The Federal Register notice reminds employers that laws require proper employment eligibility verification and prohibit unfair immigration-related employment practices remain in full force. If employers have general questions about the employment verification process, they may call the USCIS Form I-9 Customer Support at 1-888-464-4218 (TTY 877-875-6028) or email USCIS at I-9Central@dhs.gov. For questions about avoiding discrimination during the verification process, employers may call the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) Employer Hotline at 1-800-255-8155 (TTY 800-237-2515) or email OSC at osccrt @usdoj.gov.

The Federal Register notice also advises employees or applicants that they may call USCIS at 800-897-7781 (TTY 877-875-6028) or email USCIS at I-9Central @dhs.gov for general information on the employment verification process or the DOJ OSC Worker Information Hotline at 1-800-255-7688 (TTY 800-237-2515) for information regarding employment discrimination based upon citizenship or immigration status and national origin, unfair documentary practices related to the Form I-9 process, and E-Verify.

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