On March 10, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Somalia through Sep. 17, 2009. Under this extension, those who have already been granted TPS are eligible to live and work in the United States for an additional 18 months and continue to maintain their status. Also, the USCIS automatically extended the validity of Employment Authorization Documents held by eligible Somalis for an additional six months (from March 17, 2008 – September 17, 2008). USCIS believes this will allow sufficient time for eligible TPS beneficiaries to receive their new work authorization documents without any lapse in employment.
TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible nationals of certain countries designed by the Secretary of Homeland Security because those countries are experiencing temporary negative conditions, such as armed conflict or environmental disasters, that make it difficult for the nationals to return in safety or for the countries to accept their return.
Nationals of Somalia who have been granted TPS must re-register for the 18-month extension during the 60-day re-registration period beginning March 12, 2008 and remaining in effect until May 12, 2008.
To re-register, a TPS beneficiary must submit a Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, without the application fee, and a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. If the applicant is only seeking to re-register for TPS and not seeking an extension of employment authorization, the Form I-765 must still be submitted for data-gathering purposes. All applicants seeking an extension of employment authorization through Sep. 17, 2009 must submit the $340 filing fee along with the $80 biometrics fee.
Applicants may request a fee waiver for any of the application or biometric service fees. The necessary forms are available through the toll-free USCIS Forms Hotline (800) 870-3676 and on the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov.
USCIS Announces Biometric Changes For Re-entry Permits and Refugee Travel Documents
Effective March 5, 2008, all applicants filing a Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, are required to appear at an Application Support Center for biometrics (e.g. fingerprints and photographs). As with other applications, when the biometrics requirement becomes effective, USCIS will notify applicants of their appointment at the designated ASC after submission of the I-131 application.
The new Form I-131 instructions require that applicants for re-entry permits and refugee travel documents who are between the ages of 14 through 79 must provide biometrics before departing from the United States. Applicants also are strongly encouraged to apply, whenever possible, well in advance of their anticipated travel dates to allow time to attend their ASC appointments and to receive their travel documents. The necessary forms are available through the toll-free USCIS Forms Hotline (800) 870-3676 and on the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov. Shortly after filing a Form I-131, USCIS will mail the applicant a receipt and an ASC scheduling notice.
In addition, if applicants require expedited processing, the instructions provide specific information for submitting pre-paid express mailers with the Form I-131 for USCIS to send the applicant his or her receipt and ASC appointment notice, as well as the completed Re-entry Permit or Refugee Travel Document, if approved. A request for expedited processing should contain the applicant’s reasons for such processing.
In its announcement, USCIS stated that changes to the Form I-131 instructions concerning biometrics are vital to the security of the immigration process, as well as to help ensure that USCIS complies with congressional mandates for issuance of secure documents. The added biometric requirements will provide the Department of Homeland Security with an opportunity to conduct more in-depth security background checks for applicants for immigration benefits or re-entry permits and refugee travel documents for entering the United States. These requirements also improve USCIS’ capability to verify identity and for applicants to obtain secure documents that are less subject to fraud and abuse.
U.S. Supreme Court Grants Certiorari to Consider Persecutor Bar to Asylum
On March 17, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether a person who was compelled, against his will, to assist or take part in persecution is barred from asylum under the persecutor bar at INA § 208(b)(2)(A)(i). The case involves an Eritrean citizen (“petitioner”) who worked as an armed prison guard. The petitioner objected to and occasionally disobeyed orders to inflict punishment on the prisoners. Nonetheless, the Board of Immigration Appeals found that the petitioner assisted in the persecution of others and therefore is statutorily ineligible for asylum and withholding of removal. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (which hears cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) affirmed the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals. In its order, the Fifth Circuit noted that whether the petitioner was compelled to assist authorities or whether he shares the authorities’ intentions is irrelevant. It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear this case in the term beginning Oct. 6, 2008.