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Haitians’ temporary protected status in U.S. since quake to be extended 18 months

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Haitians living in the United States under temporary protected status will be granted an 18-month extension of the program, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday, allowing them to remain here through Jan. 22, 2013.

The program, which gives temporary legal status to foreign nationals whose homelands are in crisis, was extended to Haitians after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake in their country. Those with proof of continuous residence in the United States since that date could apply to remain here legally for 18 months, regardless of their status when they applied.

The department also said it would extend eligibility to include Haitians who arrived before Jan. 12, 2011, a year after the earthquake, including those who came seeking medical treatment or were fleeing difficult conditions in Haiti.

About 48,000 Haitians in the United States have temporary protected status. Many others who were eligible did not apply, because they could not afford the $470 application fee or they were afraid of putting themselves on the radar of immigration authorities once the status ends. A new deadline for applying will be announced soon, a department spokesperson said.

The status can be extended repeatedly if a country’s crisis is ongoing. Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Hondurans, Somalis and Sudanese who received the status dating as far back as 1999 have had theirs extended multiple times.

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