Jul 21 2021

DHS Extends and Redesignates Somalia for Temporary Protected Status; Expands Employment Options for Somali F-1 Students

United States

At a glance

  • The Department of Homeland Security has extended and redesignated Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), from September 18, 2021, through March 17, 2023.
  • The registration period for new TPS applicants will run from July 22, 2021 to March 17, 2023. Eligible individuals will also be able to apply for TPS-related employment authorization documents (EADs) and travel permission during this time. 
  • Current Somali TPS beneficiaries who wish to extend their benefits will be required to re-register by September 20, 2021. Those whose EADs expire on September 17, 2021 will receive an automatic extension through March 16, 2022.  
  • DHS has also announced that it will suspend certain employment authorization rules for Somali students in F-1 status who are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the crisis in Somalia.

The issue

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended and redesignated Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, from September 18, 2021 through March 17, 2023, according to a notice scheduled for publication in the Federal Register. Current Somali TPS beneficiaries will have 60 days, from July 22, 2021 through September 20, 2021, to request an 18-month extension of status and work authorization. New applicants will have the full length of the redesignation period, from July 22, 2021 through March 17, 2023, to file for TPS status and for related employment authorization documents (EADs) and travel permission. 

DHS has determined that conditions in Somalia warrant continued and renewed Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the country’s citizens in the United States. The ongoing armed conflict, along with natural disasters and disease outbreaks have worsened the already severe humanitarian crisis that prompted Somalia’s initial TPS designation. The agency determined that current conditions prevent Somali nationals and habitual residents from returning to Somalia safely. 

Relatedly, DHS is also suspending certain employment authorization rules for Somali citizens in F-1 status who are experiencing severe economic hardship due to the current crisis in Somalia. 

TPS eligibility and application process for new applicants

By redesignating Somalia for TPS and accepting new applications, USCIS estimates that approximately 100 Somali additional individuals will become eligible for the program. Somali nationals can apply for this designation if they can demonstrate that they have had continuous residence in the United States since July 19, 2021, and that they have been continuously physically present in the United States since September 18, 2021. Applicants must file a Form I-821 application with appropriate fee(s) (or request for fee waiver) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the redesignation period from July 22, 2021 through March 17, 2023. Applicants may also apply for EADs and for travel authorization during this time, by submitting the corresponding forms and fee(s) or fee waiver request. TPS and its related work authorization will be approved with a March 17, 2023 expiration date. 

All individuals applying for TPS undergo security and background checks as part of determining eligibility. Biometrics collection (fingerprints) is generally required for applicants ages 14 and older.

Re-registration process for current TPS holders

Current Somali TPS beneficiaries can continue to extend their status and work authorization provided that they previously registered for TPS under the designation of Somalia and their application was granted.

  • Who may re-register:  Re-registration is limited to those who previously registered for and were granted TPS under the designation for Somalia.
  • When to register:  Current Somali TPS beneficiaries must submit Form I-821 to USCIS by September 20, 2021.
  • Extending employment authorization: Beneficiaries who wish to extend their employment authorization for 18 months must also submit a timely Form I-765 application for an employment authorization document (EAD) and the applicable fees (or a fee waiver application).
  • Automatic EAD extensions: DHS is providing an automatic 180-day extension, through March 16, 2022, for EADs bearing an expiration date of September 17, 2021 (for those who applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period but have not yet received the new EAD) and an A-12 or C-19 category.
  • Pending TPS and/or EAD applications from prior registration period: If a previously filed application is approved, approval notices and document expiration dates will reflect the latest expiration date of March 17, 2023. There is no need for a foreign national to file either application again in order to benefit from the extension.

 

I-9 eligibility verification EAD renewals

For Form I-9 employment eligibility verification purposes, through March 16, 2022, employers may accept a TPS-related EAD with an expiration date of September 17, 2021, along with a copy of the July 22, 2021 Federal Register notice or a USCIS Form I-797C receipt notice indicating that the TPS-related EAD is automatically extended through March 16, 2022.

Relaxed employment authorization rules for certain Somali students in F-1 status

Separately, Somali citizens in lawful F-1 student status will benefit from relaxed employment authorization rules if they are experiencing severe economic hardship due to the Somali crisis. Eligible students can request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in session and reduce their course load while continuing to maintain a “full course of study” designation. To qualify, F-1 students must establish that they:

  • Are citizens of Somalia;
  • Are lawfully present in the United States in F-1 status on September 18, 2021;
  • Are enrolled in an academic institution that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified;
  • Are currently maintaining F-1 status; and
  • Are experiencing severe economic hardship as a direct result of the current crisis in Somalia. 



F-1 students who receive authorization from their Designated Service Officer (DSO) to work off-campus must apply for an EAD by submitting the required application form and corresponding fee. F-1 students who will be working on-campus do not need to file for an EAD, but do require DSO authorization. 

Looking ahead

The extension and redesignation of TPS for Somalia means that beneficiaries who submit a timely application and receive an approval may continue to work and remain in the United States through March 17, 2023. Prior to the conclusion of the 18-month extension, the DHS Secretary will review conditions to determine whether Somalia’s TPS designation should be extended again. Somali citizens in F-1 status should reach out to their school’s DSO to determine whether they can avail themselves of the relaxed employment authorization standards.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.