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Emergent Circumstances versus Temporary Protected Status: What is the Difference?


November 8, 2017

In certain situations, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary may decide to provide special benefits to eligible nationals from specific countries, including F-1 international students.

Two of these benefits include an emergent circumstances determination and temporary protected status (TPS).

Emergent Circumstances

An emergent circumstances determination is the DHS Secretary’s decision to provide special student relief to F-1 students experiencing unforeseen, severe economic hardship. This hardship must result from an emergent event, such as a natural disaster, war or military conflict, or national or international financial crisis, that would otherwise undermine a student’s financial ability to support their continued study.

Under an emergent circumstances determination, regulatory requirements that may be suspended or altered for an F-1 student are those related to full course of study and on-campus or off-campus employment.

However, students must maintain their F-1 status under the new conditions, and their designated school official must certify that they are eligible on their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record. Eligible F-1 students must first file a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before they can begin off-campus employment, .

Temporary Protected Status                                                     

TPS designation is the DHS Secretary’s decision to provide special protections to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries) who are already in the United States. Individuals must file with USCIS for TPS.

TPS may be granted to individuals, including international students, if conditions in a certain country (or parts of the country) temporarily prevent that country’s nationals from returning safely. Reasons may include a civil war or other ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster (e.g., hurricane, earthquake, epidemic), or extraordinary and temporary conditions.

Benefits of TPS include:

  • Not being removable from the United States.
  • Employment authorization.
  • Eligibility for travel authorization.

F-1 students can hold TPS at the same time as or instead of their student status. Both an emergent circumstances determination and TPS designation end on a specified date, but can be renewed by the DHS Secretary.

For more information about emergent circumstances and TPS, refer to the What is Special Student Relief (SSR)? one-pager on Study in the States or visit USCIS’ Temporary Protected Status page.

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