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Statutes of Liberty: TPS Ethiopia — Don’t pay your lawyer, yet!

This sponsored column is by Law Office of James Montana PLLC. All questions about it should be directed to James Montana, Esq., Doran Shemin, Esq., and Laura Lorenzo, Esq., practicing attorneys at The Law Office of James Montana PLLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact us for an appointment.

On Friday, October 21, the Department of Homeland Security announced that Ethiopia has been designated for Temporary Protected Status for 18 months.

Washington D.C. has the biggest Ethiopian community outside Africa, so this is huge news. We’re here to explain what it means. We know that Ethiopians in our area will be reading this, so we’re going to focus on facts and procedure here. If you’re curious about our editorial opinions, ask away in the comments.

First, a quick explainer on what TPS is, and how it works.

Temporary Protected Status, in theory, is a temporary measure meant to alleviate suffering in a country suffering from war or natural disaster. The U.S. Code permits the Attorney General (or, in modern practice, the Secretary of Homeland Security) to ‘designate’ countries which meet this description, and then provide temporary work permits, and temporary deportation protection, to nationals of the designated country who are in the United States on the date of the designation.

The process of applying for TPS is relatively simple. The applicant submits two applications: an application for TPS status on Form I-821, and, usually, an application for employment authorization on Form I-765. Fees vary depending on age. The Secretary of Homeland Security sets an ‘initial registration’ period for applicants, and then, if TPS is renewed, a ‘re-registration period.’ Miss these registration windows at your peril.

If you’re an Ethiopian who wants to apply for TPS, here’s what you need to know:

  • TPS is temporary. Sometimes — rarely — TPS designation ends. (We covered the attempt to end TPS-El Salvador in these pages. That attempt is still going more than four years later!) So, although TPS is a good thing, it is a bad substitute for permanent status. If you have an asylum claim, don’t let it drop just because you have the ability to apply for TPS!
  • The TPS application period for Ethiopia has not opened up yet. If a lawyer, an unethical ‘visa consultant,’ or ‘tax preparer’ (applicable soundtrack) offers to apply for you, do not pay them. TPS designation is a great benefit, but it also creates opportunities for scammers.
  • Start gathering your documents. Your lawyer will want to see your Ethiopian passport or your birth certificate, plus evidence that you have been physically present in the United States on or about October 20, 2022. Evidence of physical presence includes:
    • Your 2022 tax returns (file them next year!)
    • Employment records, if you have them.
    • Rent receipts
    • School records for you or your children
    • Medical records concerning treatment for you or your children
    • Religious records describing your attendance at a place of worship
    • Other documentary evidence which shows that you live here. Your lawyer can help you find more.
  • Put money aside. You can expect USCIS to charge up to $545 for your initial application.
  • Make a plan. Find a trusted place to apply for TPS after the initial registration period opens.

Once the application windows opens, our law firm will be delighted to help Ethiopians who want to apply for TPS. You can call us at 888-389-8655, or make an appointment via Calendly, here. But we know that, with hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in the area, handling all of these cases is going to be a team effort. In that spirit, here are two other trustworthy local partners for Ethiopians who need help applying for TPS.

The Ethiopian Community Development Council

ECDC is located right at 901 S. Highland Street on the Columbia Pike Corridor, and has been a voice for Ethiopians in our area for almost thirty years. We’ve presented on immigration law at ECDC — they’re great folks.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington — Hogar Immigrant Services

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington is an excellent non-profit legal services center. They can handle your TPS application for a modest fee, and they’re wonderful people.

As always, we welcome questions and comments. We’ll answer all we can!

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