US to grant citizens of South Sudan protected status for first time

The Obama administration has decided to add the Republic of South Sudan to the list of countries included under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The move comes as South Sudan gained its independence last July and the United States swiftly recognised it. Southern Sudanese voted almost unanimously in favour of secession from the North earlier this year.

Sudan was initially designated for TPS in 1997 and Washington kept extending it throughout the years. The current designation expires next November. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to announce extension of TPS for Sudan as well. All citizens of South Sudan who entered the US on or before the TPS designation is officially published will qualify regardless of their visa status. However, only Sudanese citizens who entered the country on or before October 7, 2004 will be covered by TPS extension.

TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to nationals of designated countries as part of the US Immigration Act of 1990. The US Congress established a procedure by which the Attorney General may provide TPS to aliens in the United States who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

During the period for which a country has been designated under the TPS program, the registrants are allowed to remain in the United States and obtain work authorisation and may not be deported unless they commit certain crimes. However TPS does not lead to permanent residence in the US which is better known as the ‘green card’. Several bills in the US Congress to grant permanent residence to some TPS beneficiaries have stalled.

Currently nationals of Burundi, Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Somalia are also covered by the program.