President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action Plan

President Barack Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action Plan

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of immigration reforms known as Immigration Accountability Executive Action.  These reforms will impact all major parts of the immigration system, and include:

  1. A deferred action program for part of the unauthorized population living in the U.S.
  2. Changes to border security and enforcement
  3. Improvements to the adjudication of business and family petitions

The President’s announcement does not cover the entire unauthorized population of approximately 11.5 million people.  It does, however, offer temporary relief from enforcement in the form of deferred action for about 4.4 million people in two distinct categories. To qualify, applicants will have to demonstrate that they meet strict eligibility criteria.
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) will establish a deferred action program for the unauthorized parents of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident child born on or before November 20, 2014, without regard to the child’s age.  Applicants must have lived in the U.S. continuously since before January 1, 2010, submit biometric information, pass a background check, and demonstrate they were in the U.S. on November 20, 2014 and on the date they apply.  Deferred action will be granted for three years, and applicants will be eligible to apply for work authorization.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (“USCIS”) expects to be ready to receive these applications within 180 days of the announcement.
Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”)

DHS will expand the pool of individuals brought to the U.S. as children or “dreamers” eligible for DACA. Under the expanded program, individuals are eligible if they entered the country before January 1, 2010, can demonstrate continuous presence in the U.S. since then, and were under the age of 16 at the time they entered. The expanded program eliminates the age limits established under the original program, and authorizes a 3-year grant of deferred action.  New DACA applications as well as those renewing their status will be eligible for the benefits of the expanded DACA program. USCIS should be ready to receive these applications within 90 days of the President’s announcement.
Expansion of I-601A Provisional Waivers

The President’s reforms will significantly expand the categories of family members eligible to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver to include spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.  Additionally, the President directed USCIS to provide further guidance on the definition of hardship, including clarification of the factors adjudicators should consider in determining whether the standard is met.
No Executive Order for Parents of DACA Beneficiaries; Recent Arrivals

The President’s plan does not include reforms for the parents of DACA beneficiaries or recent arrivals into the U.S.
Foreign Entrepreneurs

The President’s program allows certain inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises to be “paroled” into the U.S. (or be granted “parole in place” if already in the U.S.) if they show they have a certain amount of investment funding.  Additionally, a new regulation is expected to be issued clarifying that inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises may be eligible to obtain a national interest waiver and green cards.
Improvement of Adjustment of Status Process

Individuals with approved employment-based petitions, who are waiting for notice that their visas can be issued, will be allowed to file an adjustment of status application provided their visa category is not considered unavailable. While this change in the green card process does not give individuals lawful permanent status, it places them in the position of having filed an adjustment application, allowing the person to change jobs or seek a promotion if the criteria is met.  Dependent family members would qualify for work authorization and travel documents while waiting for issuance of the visas.
H-4 (Spouses accompanying H-1Bs)

Currently, the regulations do not allow spouses accompanying H-1Bs to work in the U.S. The President’s plan changes that by providing work authorization for certain H-4 spouses. It is unclear whether or how the President’s proposal will affect finalization of a proposed rule allowing for employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses pending since May 2014.
Optional Practical Training (“OPT”)

The President’s reforms are expected to help employers retain promising students by extending the length of time a science, technology, engineering, and math graduate can remain in the U.S. in OPT status.  Further, the reforms expand the number of degree programs eligible for OPT.
Visa and PERM Modernizations

Under the President’s reforms, agencies are directed to look at ways to modernize the antiquated visa system and maximize the accounting of visas available under the current law.  The PERM program will likewise be modernized through rulemaking to render more efficient and effective.

Before applications can be submitted, regulations must be issued.  It will be at least 90 days before new regulations go into effect. Beware of individuals claiming to be able to immediately file an application for you.

To determine your eligibility for these and other benefits under the President’s Executive Action Plan, please contact us at (305) 742-8564.  We are available for in-person, telephone, or video consultations.