On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to provide immediate relief to the growing immigration problem. While these appear to be stop-gap measures, it is expected to improve the lives of 5 million undocumented immigrants.
These initiatives include:
- Expanding the eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to young people who came to the US before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010.
- Allowing parents of US citizens and green card holders who have been in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program.
- Expanding the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens.
- Modernizing, improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs.
The current DACA program limits the applicants to individuals born before June 15, 1981. The new program removes the age cap. Now, as long as you arrived in the United States before your 16th birthday, you will be eligible for DACA. The requirement of presence in the United States has been moved from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010. This allows for the coverage of newer arrivals. Finally, the period of employment authorization has been increased to three years from the current two years.
A new program for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) is put in place. This program permits a parent of a US citizen or green card holder to ask for deferred action and employment authorization. Deferred action would mean safety from deportation for the applicant.
The main requirements of this program are:
- The person must have been lived continuously in the United States since January 1, 2010;
- Must be a parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before November 20, 2014;
- No criminal record.
The program for Provisional Waivers of Unlawful Presence has also been expanded. Currently, only spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens are allowed to apply to obtain a provisional waiver if a visa is available. The new executive order expands the provisional waiver program by allowing the spouses, sons or daughters of green card holders and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens to get a waiver if a visa is available. Also, there may be instances when the qualifying relative is not the petitioner.
The other significant highlight of the executive order covers the modernization and improvement of the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs to grow the economy and create jobs. A new method to allocate immigrant visas will be developed by the Department of State with the USCIS. This will result in a shorter visa waiting time. USCIS will finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status. The Optional Practical Training Program (OPT) for foreign students will be expanded and extended.
USCIS and other agencies and offices are responsible for implementing these initiatives as soon as possible. Some initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer. USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms as necessary.
While USCIS is not accepting requests or applications at this time, if you believe you may be eligible for one of the initiatives listed above, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your:
- Identity (passport and birth certificate);
- Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (birth certificate); and
- Continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more.
We strongly encourage you to call Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo LLC at 908-709-0500 for additional information or to send an email. We will also post updates on our Facebook page.