President Obama has taken highly anticipated and welcome steps to fix our immigration system, which is titled “Immigration Accountability Executive Action”. Remember when Beyoncé dropped her entire album and all videos at once last year amazing everyone?! Well, this feels like the immigration law version of that!
So much is packed into this plan and so many memoranda were issued on November 20, 2014 providing an initial view of the changes. Although President Obama can’t do everything by executive action, he has broad authority to act and has made some important first steps that will benefit millions of people, including not only people who are here illegally, but also business people, people in the US military, students, and more.
Not all the details of the President’s plan have been clearly defined yet, but here is an outline of some of the key elements. Keep in mind that these changes have not yet been implemented, so beware of anyone telling you you can apply for any of these new programs now. But, it is important to know what they are so we can all start getting ready!
Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
The DACA program will be expanded.
•The age cap will be lifted. This means that the program will no longer be limited to people who were under 31 years old on June 15, 2012.
•People will need to show continuous residence since January 1, 2010, instead of since June 15, 2007.
•DACA will also be expanded to 3-year increments (instead of 2)
This will go into effect approximately 90 days after November 20, 2014 (around February 18, 2015).
New Program for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Green Card Holders
The government is introducing Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (aka green card holders). Parents can request deferred action and work authorization if they:
•Have continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010;
•Are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents born on or before November 20, 2014; and
•Do not have criminal convictions or other issues that make them ineligible.
This will go into effect approximately 180 days after November 20, 2014 (around May 19, 2015).
Expansion of Provisional Waivers
The President’s action will also allow spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (aka green card holders or LPRs) as well as the adult children of US citizens and LPRs to apply for provisional waivers to minimize separation of families while immigrant visa applications are pending. (Provisional waivers are required for people who are inadmissible only because of unlawful presence.)
This will go into effect once the government issues new guidelines and regulations.
Families of US Armed Forces Members and Enlistees
Based on the request by the Department of Defense, the government will expand parole-in-place, i.e., allowing people to stay in the U.S. and also makes them eligible to apply for a green card, and deferred action to spouses, parents, and children of US citizens or lawful permanent residents who seek to enlist in the US armed forces. Previously, this benefit was only considered for family members of US military service members and veterans.
Enhancing Opportunities for Entrepreneurs, Researchers, and Inventors
Two administrative improvements are being developed to enhance opportunities for foreign inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises who want to conduct R&D and create jobs in the United States.
•The National Interest Waiver standards will be clarified with the goal of allowing inventors, researchers, and start-up founders to qualify based on benefit to the U.S. economy.
•Parole authority will exercised in favor of inventors, researchers, and start-up founders who have been awarded substantial US investor financing or otherwise will innovate and create jobs through development of new technologies or cutting-edge research
Changes to OPT for Students
USCIS will be developing regulations to expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and graduates.
These are some of the main areas of impact of the President’s bold announcement – and there are many others in the works. Given all the changes, if you are about to apply for some form of benefit or relief, think about how these upcoming changes may impact what you want to do. They may change or expand your options. Stay tuned for more details!