UAO aims to serve as the African Community Resource Clearinghouse wherein constituents gather, access information, share experiences, exchange views, and coordinate organizational capacity development. UAO's hub of resources on this website is intended to assist community members in navigating services, programs and resources that are available to help them cope better in the United States.
Department of Homeland Security Announces Temporary Protected Status Designations for Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone
WASHINGTON— Due to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has announced his decision to designate Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. As a result, eligible nationals of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone who are currently residing in the United States may apply for TPS with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Federal Register notices provide details and procedures for applying for TPS and are available at www.uscis.gov/tps.
The TPS designations for the three countries are effective Nov. 21, 2014 and will be in effect for 18 months. The designations mean that eligible nationals of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone (and people without nationality who last habitually resided in one of those three countries) will not be removed from the United States and are authorized to work and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The 180-day TPS registration period begins Nov. 21, 2014 and runs through May 20, 2015.
To be eligible for TPS, applicants must demonstrate that they satisfy all eligibility criteria, including that they have been “continuously residing” in the United States since Nov. 20, 2014 and “continuously physically present in” the United States since Nov. 21, 2014. Applicants also undergo thorough security checks. Individuals with certain criminal records or who pose a threat to national security are not eligible for TPS. The eligibility requirements are fully described in the Federal Register notices and on the TPS Web page at www.uscis.gov/tps
Liberians currently covered under the two-year extension of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) based on President Obama’s Sept. 26, 2014 memorandum may apply for TPS. If they do not apply for TPS within the initial 180-day registration period, they risk being ineligible for TPS because they will have missed the initial registration period. Liberians covered by DED who already possess or have applied for an EAD do not need to also apply for one related to this TPS designation. However, such individuals who are granted TPS may request a TPS-related EAD at a later date as long as the TPS designation for Liberia remains in effect.
Applicants may request that USCIS waive any or all fees based on demonstrated inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a written request. Fee-waiver requests must be accompanied by supporting documentation. USCIS will reject any TPS application that does not include the required filing fee or a properly documented fee-waiver request.
All USCIS forms are free. Applicants can download these forms from the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/forms or request them by calling USCIS toll-free at 1-800-870-3676.
Applicants seeking information about the status of their individual cases can check My Case Status Online or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833).
The Immigration Act of 1990 first introduced the concept of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS is granted to immigrants who are physically present in the United States and who are unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflicts (such as civil war); environmental disasters (such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or epidemics); or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Temporary protected status is rarely granted and only in extreme situations. The current situation in Nigeria, for example, does not seem to meet the threshold for Department of Homeland Security to grant TPS. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti, however, resulted in USCIS granting all Haitians in the United States TPS in 2011. Further, the recent situation in South Sudan also lead to TPS designation.
Beneficiaries of temporary protected status may remain in the United States and obtain work and travel authorization; however, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status—i.e. green card—and may be terminated at any time, thus reverting individuals back to their previous immigration status.
In order, to be eligible individuals must:
- Be a national of the designated country;
- File during open registration period;
- And have been continuously physically present (CPP) and have been continuously residing (CR) in the United States since the date specified for the designated country.
You may NOT be eligible for TPS or maintain your existing TPS if you:
- Have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the United States;
- Are found inadmissible as an immigrant under applicable grounds in INA section 212(a), including non-waivable criminal and security-related grounds;
- Are subject to any of the mandatory bars to asylum. These include, but are not limited to, participating in the persecution of another individual or engaging in or inciting terrorist activity;
- Fail to meet the continuous physical presence and continuous residence in the United States requirements;
- Fail to meet initial or late initial TPS registration requirements; or
- If granted TPS, you fail to re-register for TPS, as required (typically every 18 months), without good cause.
Individuals from the following TPS countries are eligible for TPS designation as long as they meet these eligibility requirements:
- El Salvador
- South Sudan
The application process is as follows: (1) you must first file your petition; (2) USCIS will contact you upon receipt of your application; (3) you must then go to the Application Support Center; (4) USCIS will determine your work eligibility and adjudicate your application; (5) and finally, your application will either be approved or denied.
“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” said Secretary Johnson. “By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead.”
The first DACA approvals will begin to expire in September 2014. To avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization, individuals must file renewal requests before the expiration of their current period of DACA. USCIS encourages requestors to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires.
DACA is a discretionary determination to defer removal action against an individual. Individuals in DACA will be able to remain in the United States and apply for employment authorization for a period of two years. Individuals who have not requested DACA previously, but meet the criteria established, may also request deferral for the first time. It is important to note that individuals who have not continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, are ineligible for DACA.
Individuals may request DACA renewal if they continue to meet the initial criteria and these additional guidelines:
- Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
The renewal process begins by filing the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling $465. As with an initial request, USCIS will conduct a background check when processing DACA renewals.
USCIS will also host both national and local DACA informational sessions. USCIS will provide further information on these sessions during which USCIS officials will provide additional information on the DACA process and be available to answer your questions. For information on local DACA engagements, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.
To learn more about the renewal process or requesting initial consideration of DACA, visit www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Refugee Travel Documents for Asylum Applicants, Asylees and Lawful Permanent Residents who obtained their Status Based on Asylum
Form I-131, Application for Travel Document is used to apply for a Refugee Travel Document. But who needs a Refugee Travel Document?
An Asylum Applicant (an individual who has applied for asylum, but whose application is still pending) must first obtain advance parole before leaving the United States. If they leave the United States without first obtaining advance parole, they will be presumed to have abandoned their asylum application. The advance parole does not guarantee that the asylum applicant will be able to re-enter the United States; they will still have to be inspected by an immigration inspector at the border.
An Asylee (an individual who has been granted asylum) may not travel abroad without prior approval. This special authorization is given through a Refugee Travel Document which is issued to an asylee in order to re-enter to the United States. If you hold refugee or asylee status and are not a permanent resident yet, you must have a Refugee Travel Document in order to return to the United States. An asylee who does not obtain a Refugee Travel Document before leaving the country will be unable to re-enter to the United States and may be placed in removal proceedings. A Derivative Asylee (an individual who obtained status based on a family member having been granted asylum) should also obtain a Refugee Travel Document before traveling abroad. Like advance parole, the Refugee Travel Document does not guarantee re-entry into the United States; the asylee will still have to be inspected by an immigration inspector at the border.
A Lawful Permanent Resident (aka a green card holder) who obtained their status based on asylum may also travel abroad with a Refugee Travel Document. If they travel abroad without previously obtaining a Refugee Travel Document, they may also be unable re-enter the United States.
Traveling abroad for asylum applicants, asylees and even lawful permanent resident who obtained their status based on asylum is complex and can have serious consequences. If you have any questions regarding this matter or any other immigration related questions, please feel free to contact our staff attorney Sondra Furcajg at (312) 949-9980.
A good starting point for information on how to apply for asylum is at the USCIS website.
For more information on how to apply for asylum in the United States, or assistance with the application process, contact the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). Instructions of how to schedule an appointment at the Center are available in English, Spanish and French.
Many people become lawful permanent residents through family members.
U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents have the right to help certain family members to become lawful permanent residents of the United States by obtaining what is usually referred to as “Green Card”. To do so you need to sponsor your relative and be able to prove that you have enough income or assets to support your relative(s) when they come to the U.S.
Filing the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative form is the first step in petitioning for your family member. This form is to to establish the relationship between you and the relative(s) who wish to immigrate to the United States.
U.S. citizens can petition for their:
- “Immediate Relative”: spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents.
- “Family preference category”: Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, Married child(ren) of any age, Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21)
- “Family member“: Spouses, and unmarried children
Special Categories of Family:
Individuals who meet particular qualifications and/or apply during certain time frames may be able to become permanent residents.
- Battered Spouse or Child (VAWA)
- K Nonimmigrant (includes fiancé(e))
- Person Born to a Foreign Diplomat in the United States
- V Nonimmigrant
- Widow(er) of a U.S. Citizen
Contact UAO if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-949-9980
Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national is granted U.S. citizenship after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Who qualifies for Naturalization?
- Legal Permanent Residents or Green card holders for at least 5 years and meet all other eligibility requirements. Find more information here.
- Legal Permanent Residents or Green card holders for at least 3 years, married to a U.S. Citizen and meet all eligibility requirements. Find out more about Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens.
- Military Personnel with qualifying service in the U.S. armed forces and meet all other eligibility requirements.
- Child of a U.S. citizen who was born outside the U.S., is currently residing outside the U.S., and all other eligibility requirements are met. Read more about Citizenship Through Parents.
Other paths to naturalization can be found at USCIS Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance and A Guide to Naturalization.
NB: You may already be a U.S. citizen and not need to apply for naturalization if your biological or adoptive parent(s) became a U.S. citizen before you reached the age of 18.
Applying for Naturalization
To apply for naturalization, file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Consult with an immigration attorney before applying for naturalization. Citizenship workshops provide opportunities for you to have a free one-on-one consultation with an immigration attorney. Call UAO at 312-949-9980 to find a workshop near you.
Applicants for naturalization must also pass the English, U.S. history and civics test at the Naturalization interview.
Naturalization fee waiver:
- You or your family receives public benefits (Link, Medicaid, SSI, TANF)
- Your household income is equal to or less than that listed in the table.
- $ 16,755
- $ 22,695
- $ 28,635
- $ 34,575
- $ 40,515
- $ 46,455
- $ 52,395
- $ 58,335
The South African Consulate General in Chicago represents the Government of the Republic of South Africa in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America.