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Details on President Obama’s Executive Orders on Immigration

25Dec2016

Details on President Obama’s Executive Orders on Immigration

Posted by Suzette Blackwell, Esq.

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced significant immigration reforms through executive action, due to Congress’ failure to address immigration reform. Here is the full text of the Department of Homeland Security announcement.  Below is a full summary of the new policies which will be implemented immediately.

Revise Removal Priorities to Deport Felons Not Families

New DHS policy clearly establishes that the U.S. governments’ top priority for removing individuals from the United States is threats to national security, public safety and border security.  Government resources will not be allocated to removing individuals who do not pose a threat to these three national interests.  Removal priorities fall into three categories:

  • Priority 1:  Persons engaged in terrorism; attempting to unlawfully enter the US; participation in street gangs, convicted felons
  • Priority 2: Persons convicted of three or more misdemeanors (except minor traffic offenses); convicted of significant misdemeanors; new immigration violators (apprehended after unlawfully entering or re-entering after January 1, 2014); significant abusers of visa or visa waiver programs
  • Priority 3: Persons who have been ordered to leave the United States after January 1, 2014 (have been issued a final order of removal after January 1, 2014)

DACA Program Expanded

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been expanded in several ways. As before, the applicant must have entered before age sixteen, must meet the educational requirements, and must not pose a risk to the community. However, they will now be eligible if they continuously resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 instead of June 15, 2007. In addition, there is no longer a maximum age for applying for DACA. DACA will now also be granted for three years, rather than two years.  Individuals who have a criminal record or juvenile court involvement should consult with an attorney to determine whether they are likely to be considered a risk to the community.

USCIS will begin accepting applications under the new criteria in February 2015.  Individuals whose applications are currently pending are expected to receive work permits valid for three years upon approval.

Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA)

This new policy will allow an individual to request deferred action and employment authorization if he or she:

  • Has continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010
  • Is the parent of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) born on or before November 20, 2014
  • Is not considered to be an enforcement priority (national security, public safety and border security as described above) for removal from the United States

USCIS will consider each request for DAPA status on a case-by-case basis. Persons with criminal convictions may be considered as enforcement priorities. It is suggested that persons seeking to apply for DAPA should consult an immigration lawyer before filing their application.  The filing period for applications for DAPA status will begin in May 2015.

Expansion of Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers

Current DHS policy allows spouses, parents and minor children of US citizens to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver if a visa is available. The new policy expands the program to adult children of US citizens, and spouses and children of LPRs, for whom an immigrant visa is immediately available and have a pending immigrant visa case.  Provisional waivers are for individuals who need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence to apply for the waiver from inside the U.S. and then travel to their home country to attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. They must be able to show that refusal of the visa would cause extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen or LPR relative.  New guidelines will clarify the meaning of “extreme hardship.”

Employment-Based Visa Programs

Another new initiative involves new benefits for highly skilled foreign workers and their spouses.  Certain individuals who have an approved I-140 immigrant petition but are still waiting for their priority date to become current will be have clarity about what constitutes “same or similar” job allowing them to change jobs more easily while waiting for a visa to become available, and their spouses may be able to obtain work authorization.

Other new policies for highly-skilled persons include:

  • Extending the time and use of Optical Practical Training (“OPT”) for foreign graduates in STEM fields and expanding the degree programs that will be eligible for OPT
  • Granting special immigration status to foreign inventors, researchers and entrepreneurs who have substantial investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through development of new technologies or cutting-edge research in the United States
  • Providing clear guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to enhance confidence the L-1B visa program

Clarifying the Meaning of Advance Parole

Advance parole is permission to travel that is granted to aliens in temporary status or with certain applications pending on a discretionary basis. New DHS policy requires uniform application of advance parole to persons that are technically inadmissible for having accumulated more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States.  The policy clarifies that a person who is technically inadmissible and subject to the 3- and 10- year bars will not be considered to have “departed” the United States, so that despite having accumulated unlawful presence, the 3- and 10- year bars triggering inadmissibility will not apply to them.

Removing Barriers to Naturalization

DHS will make it easier to apply for naturalization.  First, DHS will accept credit card payments for filing fees ($680). Second, partial fee waivers will be granted so the fee will be adjusted based on income. Lastly, USCIS will launch a campaign to increase public awareness of the benefits of naturalization, promote citizen rights and responsibilities and English language education.

Consult with a Licensed Immigration Attorney

Over the coming months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms as necessary. If you believe you may be eligible for one of the initiatives listed above, you can prepare by calling a licensed immigration attorney.

Please note that 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.

To avoid victimization, take action and call us up at (703) 712-8000 or click here to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. Help is just a click away.

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  • 25 Dec, 2016
  • suzette blackwell
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  • Advance Parole, Deportation, immigration reform, naturalization, Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers,

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