The US Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who entered the country unlawfully and were later allowed temporary status for humanitarian reasons will not be eligible to apply for green cards and become permanent residents.
Thousands of immigrants, including many who have lived in the country for years, could be affected by Monday's ruling, reports Xinhua news agency.
Justice Elena Kagan said the unanimous decision was "a straightforward application" of American law, which generally requires an immigrant to have been lawfully admitted to the US to be eligible for a green card.
Nothing in the conferral of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) changes that result, Kagan wrote.
TPS can be granted to illegal immigrants due to humanitarian crises in their home country.
The case was brought by Jose Santos Sanchez, a Salvadoran immigrant who entered the US illegally in 1993 but was later protected under TPS in 2001, ABC News said in a report.
He applied for a green card in 2014 but was deemed ineligible.
Monday's Supreme Court ruling means that decision will stand.
About 400,000 people currently live in the US under TPS from a dozen countries including El Salvador, Haiti, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to media reports.
Of them, 85,000 have managed to adjust status.
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