In a recent decision, Sanchez v. Mayorkas, The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) are ineligible to become permanent residents based on their grant of TPS status alone. 

The TPS Program allows foreign nationals of a country designated by the Government as having unusually dangerous conditions to live and work in the United States while those conditions last. Individuals can obtain TPS regardless of their method of entry to the U.S. or any visa overstay.

The case in question involved a couple from El Salvador that has been in the country since 1997. The case hinged on the question of if they were ever “admitted” into the country under federal immigration law since they entered the U.S. unlawfully – “without inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.” 

Typically, individuals with “nonimmigrant” status are able to obtain an adjustment of status to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) under §1255. Under this provision, eligibility for this status adjustment requires an “admission” into the country. The provision defines admission as “lawful entry of the alien into the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.”

The Court established that the two requirements of “lawful status” and “admission” are two distinct concepts and one does not confer the other. In other words, having lawful status under TPS does not automatically mean that the individual has also met the separate admission requirement. 

Justice Kagan’s opinion states that the federal immigration law does not allow individuals who entered the country illegally and now have TPS status to seek green cards to remain in the country. In the United States, there are about 400,000 people from 12 different countries with TPS status.