Many thousands of persons who have entered the U.S. without a visa have been able to gain “TPS” (temporary protected status) if they are from certain countries (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, among others.)
Generally speaking, a person who marries a U.S. citizen, or has a U.S. citizen child over age 21, can change their status to permanent resident status, get a green card, by applying to the USCIS. However, in the past, the rule was that persons who had entered the U.S. without a visa and without inspection, could not do that change of status. Now, courts in two areas of the United States – including California, have ruled that persons with TPS who have these citizen relatives CAN change to permanent resident status. For California, the court ruling came in a decision issued by the U.S Court of Appeals for our area, called Ramirez v. Brown, 852 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2017), issued on March 31, 2017. As a result of that decision, the USCIS offices in California now must accept applications for permanent residence by TPS holders who have the required sponsoring U.S. citizen relative.
It has been recommended that lawyers and their qualifying clients should be “taking action in all appropriate cases now, should the U.S. Supreme Court take up this issue and overturn this decision or the current Administration change or end TPS.” There is a window of opportunity that is open for now, but nobody knows how long this opportunity will last. So, qualified persons should act while they can.
Not everyone will qualify. Even with the required sponsoring relative, a person’s past history of deportations or criminal convictions might be disqualifying. Persons should consult with an attorney to make sure they are in the qualifying group, and to be sure that the application is submitted in the correct form.