DHS: Visitors from three Ebola-stricken West African countries can stay in US for 18 months

The Obama administration says people in the United States whose home countries are ravaged by Ebola can stay in America.

The decision by the Department of Homeland Security will grant temporary status to about 8,000 people currently living in the U.S. The move, first reported by Reuters, was designed to protect people from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone from being deported back to areas experiencing disaster conditions.

The temporary stay currently has an 18-month ceiling on it. However, after that time, DHS will assess whether the protection should be extended.

In order to receive protected status, residents from the three West African countries must undergo a background check. Those who are found to have a criminal history will not be approved.

This isn’t the first time the United States has offered protection to people whose homelands have been hit by either natural disasters or diseases deeming the area too dangerous to return.

In 2010, the U.S. offered Haitians displaced by the earthquake places to stay. The earthquake, which measured 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale, claimed more than 230,000 lives. It also displaced 1.5 million people, according to the United Nations.

But unlike other situations, the residents from West Africa will not be allowed to travel back to the region and then return to the U.S. – a measure in place in order to prevent the disease from spreading.