Some 5 million immigrants stand to benefit from the President’s “Immigration Accountability Executive Actions” announced last November 20. Following his announcement, memoranda were released providing additional directives and explaining in more details his executive action on immigration.
The President, through the program known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), extended eligibility for deferred action to parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
Applicants for deferred action under this program must meet the following criteria: (1) have as of November 20, 2014 a son or a daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; (2) continuous residence in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010; (3) physical presence in the U.S. on November 20, 2014 and at the time the application requesting DAPA is submitted; (4) no lawful status as of November 20, 2014; and (5) not removal priority under the new policy and not have any other characteristics that would make deferred action inappropriate.
Applicants will also undergo a thorough background check of all relevant national security and criminal databases. If approved, deferred action will be granted for three years. Beneficiaries will also be granted work authorization.
The program is expected to protect from deportation around 4 million undocumented immigrants. The USCIS is set to begin accepting applications in about 180 days from November 20, 2014.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is also directed to identify persons in custody who may be eligible under the program. ICE will also review removal cases of individuals who will qualify and seek termination of those cases.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program launched in 2012 will be expanded. Under the original program, individuals who were under 31 years old on June 15, 2012 and entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007 under the age of 16 were eligible to apply. The revised program eliminates the age cap of 31 which means that so long as the applicant meets all the criteria, the current age of the applicant would not matter.
The revised program also moves the eligibility cut-off date when an applicant must have been in the U.S. from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010.
Around 1.2 million individuals were eligible under the original DACA. The revised program is expected to cover an additional 270,000 immigrants. Applications under the new DACA program will be accepted starting around late winter and the DACA recipients will be granted deportation relief and work permits for 3 years.
EXPANDED PROVISIONAL WAIVER
The provisional waiver program will also be expanded to include the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, as well as the adult children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Under the original program announced in January 2013, only spouses and children of U.S. citizens were eligible to apply for provisional waiver. The USCIS will also provide guidance on the definition of “extreme hardship” and the factors to be considered in determining whether the “extreme hardship” standard has been met
MODERNIZING VISA SYSTEM
Included in the President’s executive action are directives for modernizing and streamlining the visa system. An estimated 200,000 skilled workers will be benefited. The USCIS and the State Department were directed to improve the system for determining when green cards are available to applicants each fiscal year.
In addition, the USCIS was also directed to change regulations so as to provide stability for beneficiaries of employment-based petitions more specifically ensuring that visa petitions remain valid when beneficiaries change jobs and clarifying “same or similar” job to allow beneficiaries to change jobs without fear of voiding their approved petitions.
A new regulation providing work permits for H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders who are in the process of obtaining green cards through employment will be published soon by the USCIS.
The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program will be expanded to include more degree programs and increasing the length of time foreign graduates pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions, can spend on OPT status.
The USCIS was also directed to clarify regulations by which immigrant entrepreneurs can obtain national interest waiver.
The USCIS was also instructed to propose a program allowing the grant of parole to inventors, researchers and founders of startup companies, who have been “awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research”. These are only a few of the President’s directives and instructions to improve the nation’s immigration system.