Consular officials in Los Angeles are urging Salvadorans to renew their immigration papers by a Dec. 30 deadline to avoid risking deportation.
About 229,000 Salvadorans are eligible for temporary protected status, but only about 39%, or 90,340, have submitted applications, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
El Salvador's consul general in Los Angeles, Hector Hugo Herrera, said Tuesday he believed many haven't completed the paperwork because they cannot afford the $80 fee for the fingerprints and the $340 fee for the work permit.
"They are leaving it to the last moment because they don't have sufficient money," he said, adding that many have lost jobs or hours because of the declining economy.
Herrera said that if necessary, Salvadorans should renew their immigration paperwork now and postpone renewing their work permits because that deadline isn't until September. Applicants may also apply for a fee waiver or ask at the consulate about where to set up a line of credit.
The government granted certain Salvadorans the temporary benefit because of a pair of massive earthquakes that hit the Central American country in 2001.
The U.S. government has seen higher application rates from Nicaraguans and Hondurans, who can receive the temporary immigration status because of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. About 51% of the eligible 3,500 Nicaraguans and 60% of eligible Hondurans have applied, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services. The U.S. government has also received roughly 12,250 online re-registration applications, which cannot be broken down by country.