Background on Temporary Protected Status Redesignation for Nepal

August, 2021

What is Temporary Protected Status or TPS?

The Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, was established by Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990.1 TPS is a humanitarian program that protects foreign nationals in the U.S. from being returned to their home country if returning would put them at risk of violence, disease, or death.2 The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a country for TPS in three scenarios3:

  1. Ongoing armed conflict (such as a civil war)4;
  2. An environmental disaster (such as an earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic5; or
  3. Other extraordinary and temporary conditions that prevent nationals from the country from safely returning home.

Nationals of a country designated for TPS and people without nationality who last resided in a TPS-designated country are eligible for TPS if they are in the United States when their country is designated.6 The designation or extension of TPS can be for six, 12, or 18 months.7 Sixty days prior to the end of an initial designation or re-designation period, the Secretary must review the conditions of the foreign country to determine if the unsafe conditions persist.8 There is no limit on the number of times the Secretary may extend TPS, so long as the conditions continue.9

If TPS is granted, the applicant receives protection from deportation and work authorization to support themselves while they remain in the United States. TPS does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.10

Why was Nepal Designated TPS? 

Nepal was first designated for TPS in June 2015 following a deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the country on April 25, 2015. The earthquake and its aftershocks—including a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on May 12, 2015—affected more than 8 million people, killed approximately 9,000 people and left more than 20,000 injured. The damage to Nepal’s private and public infrastructure was catastrophic—750,000 homes were destroyed or seriously damaged, 7,000 classrooms were lost, and 900 health care facilities that served rural villagers were demolished. Infrastructure damage severely affected food and water security.11

Following the earthquake and its aftershocks, the United States committed significant aid and issued a strong statement affirming long term support for Nepal’s recovery.12 In the most recent extension in 2017, the government cited dire, persistent conditions caused by the disaster including significant internal displacement and damaged or destroyed homes, schools, and health facilities.13

After the 2017 extension, the Trump administration terminated TPS for Nepal in 2018, which resulted in the lawsuits Ramos v Nielsen and Bhattarai v Nielsen. Due to these cases, the termination of TPS for Nepal will not take effect until further notice as the injunction on Ramos v Nielsen (enjoined with Bhattarai v Nielsen) remains in place at this time. Current designations are set to expire on October 4, 2021.

Why should TPS for Nepal be redesignated immediately?

Nepal remains unable to handle the safe return of 10,160 Nepali TPS holders and the additional 36,795 Nepali nationals who would qualify for TPS if the country is redesignated.14 Since the original designation, a combination of government dysfunction, human rights abuses, civil unrest, catastrophic flooding, and the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed recovery and continue to place the health and safety of Nepali nationals at risk. The Department of State 2020 Country Report on Nepal noted significant documentation by human rights groups on unlawful killings, torture, arbitrary detention and significant restrictions on free expression.15 Continued political turmoil in Nepal also contributes to a state of heightened instability. Since the adoption of a new constitution in 2015, Nepal has seen four different governments in six years. As recently as July 12, 2021, the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered the reinstatement of the parliament and a change of government following months of political infighting.16

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing humanitarian and political crises in Nepal. In 2020, the government imposed national and local lockdowns to control the pandemic. The poor design and implementation of these policies led to disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities.17

School closures disrupted the education of children and daily wage laborers and farmers suffered disproportionate harm to their livelihoods and economic rights.18 In April and May 2021, Nepal suffered from one of the world’s highest infection rates, devastating an already fragile and underfunded health system and causing a significant rise in maternal and neonatal deaths.19 UNICEF found that 55% of surveyed households lost their earnings or livelihood due to the lockdown, and one-third reported shortages in food, medicines and other supplies.20

What is the impact of TPS for Nepal on the U.S. society and the economy?

Nepali TPS holders make significant contributions to United States’ society and economy:

  • TPS provides work authorization for more than 10,000 Nepalis who live and contribute to the U.S. labor market and economy. A Center for American Progress, University of California, San Diego and Adhikaar survey of Nepali TPS holders nationally found that 76.7 percent of respondents agreed that because of TPS, “I have been able to earn more money, which helped my family financially.”
  • Nepali TPS holders contribute to the economy as consumers. With the help of TPS, 59.1 percent of respondents reported opening bank accounts in the United States; 31.2 percent reported purchasing a car; and 4.6 percent reported purchasing a home.
  • Nepali TPS holders are working on the front lines of the pandemic. Many respondents reported working as doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, home health aides, drivers and in grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and package delivery services.
  • New York, DC/Maryland/Virginia region, California and Texas would be the most affected areas, as they are home to the highest concentrations of Nepali TPS holders.21

What will be the impact if TPS for Nepal is not redesignated?

If TPS is not redesignated, thousands of TPS holders will be forced to return to Nepal and undoubtedly face serious food, water, and housing insecurities, placing their lives at risk. The decision will also further destabilize the economies of the U.S. and Nepal. Nepali TPS holders will also face the excruciating decision of whether to bring their U.S. citizen children back to Nepal with them. A staggering 81.5 percent of the Nepali TPS holders surveyed “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that, “If I returned to Nepal, I would be concerned about the physical safety of myself and my family.” Among respondents who have U.S.-citizen children, this increased to 85.3 percent. Many parents will likely choose to not put their children in harm’s way, separating families apart and scarring a generation of Nepali-Americans.

Why is TPS for Nepal in line with our shared values?

The U.S. has a long history of providing relief to victims of catastrophic events and natural disasters. TPS reflects our country’s values as it protects people from unsafe conditions that are outside of their control. U.S. immigration law, including TPS, reflects respect for the lives of people who, without protection, would be returned to unsafe, if not deadly, circumstances.

Redesignating Nepal for TPS also aligns with U.S. national interests. It would advance United States engagement within the region and promote recovery, development, and regional stability.

Our values demand that the U.S. extend TPS to protect the lives and dignity of Nepali TPS recipients. TPS satisfies our international obligations to ensure innocent people are not returned to dangerous conditions, especially hard working people who have played a prominent role as essential workers and frontliners during the pandemic.

  1. Jill H. Wilson, Temporary Protected Status: Overview and Current Issues, Congressional Research Service (April 1, 2020)l.
  2. Id.
  3. INA § 244(b).
  4. INA §244 (b)(1)(A).
  5. INA §244 (b)(1)(B).
  6. INA §244 (a)(1)
  7. INA §244 (b)(2)(B)
  8. INA §244 (b)(3)(A).
  9. See generally INA §244.
  10. INA §244 (a)(1)(A); INA §244 (a)(1)(B).
  11. Designation of Nepal for Temporary Protected Status, 80 Fed. Reg. 36346 (June 24, 2015).
  12. 2015 Nepal Earthquake Anniversary, USAID, (last visited Aug 3, 2021).
  13. Extension of the Designation of Nepal for Temporary Protected Status, 81 Fed. Reg. 74470 (Oct. 26, 2016).
  14. Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, Congressional Research Service (May 28, 2021); First 180 Day Timeline and Urgent Recommendations on Restoring TPS and DED Protection, TPS AWG (last visited August 6, 2021)
  15. 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Nepal, US. Dept. of State (March 30, 2021)
  16. Nepal’s Supreme Court reinstates parliament; orders new PM to be appointed, Reuters (July 12, 2021)
  17. Nepal, Human Rights Watch (last visited August 3, 2021)
  18. Id.
  19. Ashish KC et al., Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on intrapartum care, stillbirth, and neonatal mortality outcomes in Nepal, Lancet, (August 10, 2020); Nepal sees huge rise in maternal deaths, Guardian (July 15, 2021)
  20. Child & Family Tracker, UNICEF (last visited August 3, 2021)
  21. Nepali TPS Holders Make Significant Contributions to America, Center for American Progress (October 19, 2020)