By Fiona Carroll, J.D. Class of 2022
On March 16th, the Biden Administration responded to mounting calls from immigration advocates by designating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Afghan nationals living in the United States without permanent legal status.1 The announcement was highly anticipated, especially after the Administration designated Ukraine for TPS on March 3rd,2 just a week after the Russian invasion began. The decision to provide TPS status to Afghanistan comes after almost seven months since Afghans began evacuating to the United States.
What is TPS?
TPS was created by the Immigration Act of 1990. It provides temporary status to nationals of certain countries experiencing political conflict, environmental crises, or other extraordinary conditions.3 Though the status is temporary, TPS is significant for foreign nationals because it provides an opportunity to attain a work permit and suspends deportation for anyone from the designated country in the U.S. at the time the U.S. government creates the designation.4
TPS does not, however, create a pathway to citizenship. Instead, the designation can be made for six, twelve, or eighteen months at a time. During that time, TPS recipients who are otherwise eligible for permanent status may pursue another form of status that would lead to citizenship.
Who is Eligible?
To be eligible, applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before March 15, 2022, and are required to pay an application fee and pass a background check.5
For some Afghans, TPS protection will be redundant because many evacuees were paroled into the U.S. for a two-year period through Operation Allies Refuge or Operation Allies Welcome. For those first evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021 who apply for TPS, the two-year parole period and TPS will expire at almost the same time in 2023 if the TPS designation period is not extended.
TPS designation has the potential to most impact Afghans who are in the U.S. either on expired visas or on visas expiring during the TPS designation period. In his statement designating Afghanistan for TPS, Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained “[t]his designation will help to protect Afghan nationals who have already been living in the United States from returning to unsafe conditions.”6
Though the Biden Administration granted TPS designation to Afghanistan in response to one of immigration advocates’ concerns for Afghans, this step was long overdue. The Administration and Congress should take additional steps to ensure Afghans’ safety given the uncertain future they currently face. Many evacuated Afghans are eligible for permanent U.S. residency through the Special Immigrant Visa process or through asylum, but both pathways are extremely backlogged, complicated, and could take years to complete. Advocates have called on Congress to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, which “would allow evacuees to adjust their status and apply for lawful permanent residence after a certain amount of time in the U.S.”7 Many Afghans who have evacuated their country have come to the U.S. out of necessity and not by choice. Some are in a constant state of worry for the safety of family they left behind in Afghanistan.8 The Afghan Adjustment Act would allow Afghans to rebuild their lives in the U.S. without having to struggle against our immigration system’s shortcomings.
 “Secretary Mayorkas Designates Afghanistan for Temporary Protected Status,” DHS, Mar. 16, 2022, https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/03/16/secretary-mayorkas-designates-afghanistan-temporary-protected-status.
 “Secretary Mayorkas Designates Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status for 18 Months,” DHS, Mar. 3, 2022, https://www.dhs.gov/news/2022/03/03/secretary-mayorkas-designates-ukraine-temporary-protected-status-18-months.
 “Temporary Protected Status: An Overview,” American Immigration Council, Mar. 2022, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/research/temporary_protected_status_an_overview_0.pdf.
 Immigration Act of 1990, Pub. L. 101-649, 104 Stat. 4978 (1990).
 Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff, Biden administration designates Afghans for protected status, shielding them from deportation, Mar. 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/03/16/dhs-afghans-tps/.
 “Secretary Mayorkas Designates Afghanistan,” supra note 1.
 Steward Verdery, Congress should pass an Afghan Adjustment Act, Roll Call, Oct. 19, 2021, https://rollcall.com/2021/10/19/congress-should-pass-an-afghan-adjustment-act/.
 Gabrielle Hays and Roby Chavez, 6 months after arriving in U.S., Afghan evacuees still worry about the families they left behind, PBS News Hour, Mar. 4, 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/6-months-after-arriving-in-u-s-afghan-evacuees-still-worry-about-the-families-they-left-behind; Jeff Gammage, For Afghans evacuated to the U.S., a choking fear for loved ones left behind, Phila. Inquirer, Oct. 30, 2021, https://www.inquirer.com/news/afghanistan-family-left-behind-resettlement-taliban-evacuation-20211030.html.