On November 20, 2014, the federal government announced a number of initiatives meant to crack down on illegal immigration, while also providing what could be very valuable benefits to individuals who are currently in the U.S., as well as individuals who are seeking new opportunities to immigrate to, or remain in, the U.S.
Two of the more significant initiatives in the short-term relate to deferred action. First, the administration intends to create a deferred action program, much like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program initiated in 2012, for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. According to the announcement, this deferred action program would allow these individuals who have been present in the U.S. since 1/1/2010, who pass background checks, and who pay any back taxes which are owed, to remain lawfully in the U.S. for a three year period. The announcement emphasized that this is not a path to permanent residence for these individuals. This program would be referred to as Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) and is expected to become effective 180 days after the November 20, 2014 announcement.
The second initiative relating to deferred action would remove the maximum age on individuals who otherwise would be eligible for the administration’s 2012 deferred action for childhood arrivals. It is anticipated that individuals may begin submitting applications for this program 90 days after the November 20, 2014 announcement.
The administration estimates that 4.4 million people will benefit from the two above-referenced deferred action programs.
Another initiative which would expand a current benefit is the expansion of the I-601A provisional waiver eligibility. Currently, the program allows only spouses and children (under age 21) of U.S. citizens to apply for such a waiver of inadmissibility before leaving the U.S. The initiative would expand this eligibility to also apply to over 21 sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, as well as spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. Additionally, the administration proposes to expand and clarify the key definition of “extreme hardship.” Such an expansion and clarification should be of great value to these potential applicants.
The announcement also included initiatives that could be of great benefit to employers wishing to attract or retain high-skilled foreign workers. One such initiative would be advancement of the quota backlogs for workers with approved employment-based immigrant petitions. Doing so would allow those workers to immediately apply for permanent residency. Because this initiative would need to be done by a change in the regulations, it is unclear when this initiative might become a reality. A second change which would go a long way in allowing U.S. companies to attract foreign workers is to allow the spouses of workers with H-1B status to apply for work authorization. The current prohibition on these spouses from working in the U.S. has discouraged many highly talented individuals from seeking employment in the U.S.
The administration also announced its intention to clarify certain definitions in the immigration regulations, which would be of great help in promoting consistency with respect to the adjudication of employment-based immigration petitions.
Finally, the administration intends to use existing programs, such as the national interest waiver and the Department of Homeland Security’s parole authority, to attract investors, researchers, and entrepreneurs, to bring their skills and investment to the U.S.
Although these initiatives are not currently in force, if you have questions about whether you or a family member might be eligible for relief under one of the announced initiatives, please contact Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. One of our attorneys can discuss your potential eligibility and what information and documents you should begin gathering so that you are prepared for the government’s implementation of these various programs.