On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a number of Executive Orders that will impact the current immigration situation in the United States. These orders include a number of enforcement initiatives that will strengthen the country's boarders in an attempt to reduce illegal immigration and will prioritize the deportation of aliens who have committed serious crimes. In addition to these enforcement actions, the President's orders also included some immigration benefits to certain people. It is important to remember however, that the majority of these benefits are temporary in nature and do not necessarily lead to permanent residence (“green card”). That means that the benefits granted to those that qualify are not permanent and can be discontinued at some point in the future.
It is also important to note that while the President announced these actions on November 20, many of them do not take effect until the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) and, in some cases, the Department of State put together the regulations, rules, procedures and applications that are required in order to apply for these benefits. In some cases this will be done within the next 90 days while in other cases it may take longer. In other words, it is too early to make an application at this time. The government will make announcements as they are ready to accept applications.
The benefits the President announced relate to the following:
1) Expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA, a/k/a “Dreamers”) program to include young people who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and have been present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. This also includes extending the validity period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years.
2) Allowing parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) who have been present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for a period of three years, provided they pass required background checks. This is a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program.
3) Expanding the use of Form I-601A provisional waivers of unlawful presence (“3 year and 10 year bars”) to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. This was previously limited only to spouses and parents of U.S. citizens.
4) Improving and clarifying certain immigrant (“Green card”) and nonimmigrant (“Work Visas) programs that are related to expanding the economy and creating jobs. This includes the possibility of expanding and extending Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) for students, granting employment authorization to certain H-4's (spouses of H1B visa holders), clarifying the standard for national interest waivers for foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises, and clarify job portability to allow people with delayed adjustment of status applications to change jobs.
5) Promoting citizenship education and public awareness for permanent residents (“Green card” holders) and providing an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee.
Finally, you must be aware that any criminal convictions may have a serious impact on your ability to apply for any of these benefits.
If you feel that you or any member of your family may qualify for any of the above, or if you have any questions regarding these benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us at 201.462.9500 or email us at [email protected].