The majority of the publicity surrounding President Obama's Executive Action last week is concerned with the relief it gives to undocumented immigrants. Contrary to some reports, the proposals do NOT offer any amnesty or path to citizenship, and are just temporary measures.
1. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Expansion.
In June 2012, President Obama announced that some undocumented people, who had come to the US as children, would not be deported. These people are sometimes referred to as "Dreamers" after a proposed bill called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Obama's Executive Action expands the relief available as follows:
The USCIS website explains the former requirements for DACA.
All except the first and third criteria still apply.
USCIS may begin accepting applications approximately 90 days from November 20, 2014
2. Relief for Parents of Permanent Residents and Citizens
The most controversial element of Obama's proposals allow for the undocumented parents of US citizens or permanent residents to get work authorization and relief from deportation for 3 years. Applicants will need to register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before November 20, 2014.
The requirements are:
USCIS may begin accepting applications approximately 180 days (6 months) from November 20, 2014.
President Obama's speech last night on what is being called "Immigration Accountability Executive Action" (IAEA) primarily described the relief offered to parents of children who are US citizens pr permanent residents (green card holders), and mentioned a change in the focus of the enforcement arm (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, there are far more details on the US Immigration Service website and in the White House Fact Sheet on the subject.
The blog post will cover the proposed changes that affect employment-based applicants and their employers, and prospective citizens. On Monday, I will cover the changes affecting undocumented immigrants and enforcement. Full details of the changes are not yet published, so I can only provide a summary for now.
Changes affecting non-immigrants.
1. Spouses of H-1B workers will get work authorization if the H-1B worker has "an approved LPR application" (this phrase is not defined yet).
2. Investors and entrepreneurs will be encouraged to immigrate by
4. Expand the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) available to F-1 students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, including requiring stronger ties between OPT students and their colleges and universities following graduation.
Changes to the permanent residence process.
1 The government is expected to change the way that Adjustment of Status applications are filed, to allow for employees to change jobs more easily, even if their priority date is not current.
2. Improve the ability of people who have filed for permanent residence to travel outside the US while the application is pending.
The government will promote the naturalization process through increased public awareness campaigns in the 10 states where 75% of permanent resident live. Payment of fees will be made easier by
As the USCIS website notes:
Important notice: These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam.
Over the coming months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms regarding the changes. Check back here (or subscribe to the feed) for frequent updates as new information emerges.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had announced that Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone will be eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months starting tomorrow, November 21, 2014. After that time, the government can decide to extend the TPS period, or end the benefits.
The TPS designation means that undocumented immigrants from those countries who are already in the US will not be removed (deported) and can apply for work authorization
To qualify for TPS, applicants must show that they satisfy all eligibility criteria, including that they have been “continuously residing” in the United States since Nov. 20, 2014 and “continuously physically present in” the United States since Nov. 21, 2014. Applicants also undergo thorough security checks. People with certain criminal records or who pose a threat to national security are not eligible for TPS.
The TPS registration period runs from Nov. 21, 2014 to May 20, 2015 (180 days). Applicants should apply during this time, following the instructions here.
DHS defines TPS as
The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.
For more information, see the DHS Press Release
The New York Times is reporting that President Obama may issue executive orders next week to help 5 million undocumented immigrants and refocus the activities of 12,000 immigration officials.
Citing administration officials, The Times states that one feature of the legislation would grant work authorization to the parents of US citizen or permanent resident children. There is debate as to whether this benefit will be limited to people who have been in the US for 10 or 5 years.
According to the paper,
"Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history."
The Washington Post reports that Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), two of the most vocal proponents for immigration reform, began circulating a letter of support on Wednesday that lays out the economic, political and legal arguments that they hope Obama's allies will be making on his behalf once he takes action and begins facing Republican criticism for doing so. A full draft of the letter is below.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.