Clarifying Obama’s Immigration Reform Proposals

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Barack Obama’s Immigration Reform Proposals

Last night President Obama announced a bold executive action aimed directly at reforming and expanding current immigration policy.

Following a lack of action on behalf of Congress to propose comprehensive reform, President Obama laid out a series of defined and targeted actions that would change the face of immigration policy for millions attempting to live and work in this country.

Among these proposals, President Obama focused on expanding the scope of deferred action (a policy he originally implemented in 2012), creating a new category of deferred action eligibility for illegal parents of US citizen or lawful permanent resident children, and expanding immigrant and non-immigrant protocols for both business and family based visas.

While these initiatives have not yet been implemented by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), it will be important to understand if any of these proposals could affect your immigration status.

The proposed immigration reforms can be broken down by category as follows:

  1. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program or “DACA”: The DACA program was originally implemented in 2012 to include a deferred action period and employment authorization for illegal aliens who arrived as children and met other important criteria, such as having a high school diploma (or equivalency). This new proposal will remove the age restriction to apply for DACA, now also allowing those born prior to June 15, 1981 to apply for DACA status. This expansion will similarly change the required date of continuous residence from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010, allowing anyone who entered before the latter date to qualify as well. Finally, the expansion will grant a longer period of deferred action and employment authorization for an applicant, changing from two years to a three year period.
  2. Deferred Action for Parental Accountability or “DAPA”: This proposal is a new addition to current immigration policy, allowing a parent of a US Citizen child or permanent resident child, currently living in the US, to apply for deferred action. A parent must have continuously resided in the US since January 1, 2010 and their child must have been born on or before November 20, 2014. Similarly, the parent must not be an enforcement priority for removal based on current immigration policy for apprehension, detention and removal of undocumented immigrants. *It is important to note that the DAPA applications will be considered on a case by case basis, indicating that a higher level of scrutiny may be enforced once this particular policy takes hold.
  3. Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers: This policy would expand access to provisional waivers to include the daughters and sons of US Citizens and the spouse and daughters and sons of permanent residents. A provisional waiver opportunity would now be expanded to include these immediate relatives, but an applicant would still be subject to the requirement that an immigrant visa be available at the time of applying. A provisional waiver is necessary to overcome a 180 day period of unlawful presence when applying for an immigrant visa. Based on an earlier policy implemented on March 4, 2013, an applicant may apply for a provisional waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence before they leave the US to attend their immigrant visa interview.
  4. Modernize and Improve Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Programs: This portion of the proposed policy will include changes aimed at growing the economy and creating US jobs. The proposals will target current business immigration policies in an attempt to both expand and clarify current regulations. Specifically, the reforms would aid foreign investors, businesses, skilled foreign workers, inventors, and researchers and by discussing the following:
    • Expanding and streamlining the immigrant visa allocation method, to ensure all eligible individuals are issued immigrant visas or green cards when there is adequate demand;
    • Working with the US Dept. of State to simplify and clarify the Immigrant Visa Bulletin system, allowing for a more reliable determination of immigrant visa or green card availability;
    • Clarifying the ability to port an adjustment application to a new employer, to allow employees waiting to adjust their status to permanent residency status more mobility and freedom to progress their career;
    • Clarifying the National Interest Waiver standard and how it may apply to a larger group of applicants, like start-up business founders, inventors, and researchers;
    • Authorizing parole to inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up businesses who may not yet reach the national interest waiver standard based on other criteria;
    • Offering work authorization for H4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrant workers who are pursuing permanent resident status;
    • Expanding and streamlining OPT parameters for foreign students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (“STEM”) degrees within the US; and
    • Clarifying the “specialized knowledge” requirement in connection with the L-1B non-immigrant status.
  5. Promote the process of applying for Naturalization (US Citizenship): This initiative would attempt to promote and simplify the naturalization process for permanent residents (aka green card holders) eligible for citizenship. The changes would attempt to further education and access to the naturalization process for permanent residents, including public education and awareness, and allowing applicants to pay the filing fee by credit card.

These policy changes have been widely reported in the news media and stand to face major political challenges through their implementation.

This, however, does not mean that their intention or efficacy will be diluted. Just as we saw with the original passage of DACA in 2012, US immigration policy will continue to evolve and adapt to the reality of millions of people attempting to live and work lawfully in the US today.

This blog post was written by Lightman Law Firm Associate Attorney, Lauren DiMaggio.

For more information on Obama’s Immigration Reform Proposals
, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or contact us via email.

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2014 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.