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President Obama Announces New Immigration Policy

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced changes that he would make to U.S. immigration policy that could help an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants.

In short, the new Immigration Policy may extend benefits to immigrants who:

1. Have a son or daughter who is a U.S citizen or permanent resident (green card);

2. Have continuously lived in the United States since January 1, 2010;

3. Were physically present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014 and were out of status on that date; and

4. Have not been convicted of a felony or a “significant” misdemeanor.

Immigrants who apply for this program and are approved will be granted “deferred action” (cannot be deported) and will be granted work permits for up to 3 years. With work permits, immigrants may then apply for social security numbers and state driver's licenses. This program will allow millions of immigrants to legally live and work in the U.S. without fear of being deported. It is anticipated that USCIS will be able to accept applications for under this new policy within 180 days from November 20, 2014 (or by May 19, 2015).

The new Immigration Policy will also expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allowed young immigrants, under 30 years old and who arrived as children, to apply for deferred action. Under the new Immigration Policy, applicants must satisfy all of the other requirements of DACA, but now the age restriction (of 30 years old) has been removed and immigrants of any age may now apply for deferred action and a work permit. In addition, new DACA applicants only have to demonstrate five years of continuous physical presence in the U.S. from the new date of January 1, 2010 to the present. It is anticipated that USCIS will be able to accept applications for DACA under the new guidelines within 90 days from November 20, 2014 (or by February 18, 2015).

In addition to the above, the new Immigration Policy has several other benefits that will ultimately help immigrants and non-immigrants apply for and obtain benefits, including:

1. Expanded use of I-601 Provisional Waivers for unlawful presence to include the sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. The policy will also bring clarification to what constitutes "extreme hardship" for purposes of qualifying for Provisional Waivers.

2. Modernizing, improving, and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs, including:

  • Working with the Department of State to develop a method to allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas.
  • Working with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability.
  • Providing clarity on adjustment portability to remove unnecessary restrictions on natural career progression and general job mobility to provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.
  • Clarifying the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S economy.
  • Authorizing parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but 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.
  • Finalizing a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status.
  • Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law.
  • Provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

3. Setting forth a clear set of priorities for Apprehension, Detension and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants which makes clear that the New Policy will direct a focus on deporting "felons not families". For millions of undocumented immigrants, this is additional welcome new because it confirms that undocumented immigrants who do not have felony or signficiant misdemeanor conviction records are lowest of enforcement priorities for the U.S. government and that government resources and time will be invested in securing the borders and apprehending immigrants with criminal backgrounds and/or those who pose a threat to national security or public welfare.

If you have questions about your Immigration status, whether you qualify for benefits under President Obama’s New Immigration Policy, or if you need representation or assistance with your Immigration case, call South Florida Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel at (954) 385-3111 for a free consultation to review your case and answer your questions.