Rubenia Sandoval wasted no time in seeking advice from a community advocacy group in Hempstead once she learned she would be able to legally stay in the United States.

The factory worker from Freeport is one of the thousands of Long Island's 66,000 Salvadorans who were watching the calendar as their authorization to live and work here was set to expire in March.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced it was extending "temporary protected status" for immigrants from El Salvador.

Sandoval planned to fill out her renewal application at the office of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN), where she sought help on Wednesday.

"We should all be happy about this," said Sandoval, 34. "This gives us the opportunity to be employed and even buy a house or buy a car if you have the money -- all those things that undocumented people can't do."

The provisional status, commonly known as TPS, is given to formerly undocumented immigrants or those with expiring visas from countries with ongoing armed conflict, natural disasters and other turmoil. The provision originally authorizing the temporary status was part of the Immigration Act of 1990 and has also been extended at different times for Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

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As many as 212,000 Salvadorans first applied for the provisional status when Washington granted it for immigrants from that Central American country after it was devastated by a 2001 earthquake.

"These are people who have been fully vetted, and we know who they are, for 10 years," said Patrick Young, CARECEN's program director. "It would seem ridiculous to send them back."

Only those who already have TPS status can apply for the renewal, cautioned Katie Tichacek Kaplan, spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"This is a big opportunity we get for another year and a half," said Saúl Linares, 33, organizer of Hempstead's Salvadoran-American Day Festival. "We need it and our country needs it, because many relatives depend on the money we send."

The Salvadoran TPS was to expire on March 9. Applicants now have until March 11 to submit renewal forms for the provisional status and work permits, which will be reset to expire on Sept. 9, 2013.

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Applicants must pay $465 in fees, plus any costs for legal assistance. Any immigrant convicted of more than one misdemeanor is disqualified from the program.