On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he was taking executive action with regards to immigration law. In an effort to provide some relief to the millions of people living in the United States undocumented, President Obama has decided to expand several existing programs and also to create a new program. These programs will make it easier for undocumented residents to remain in the United States. Some of the changes include the following:
- Expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Program
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, was a program created on June 15, 2012 for children who arrived in the United States prior to June 15, 2007 and prior to their sixteenth birthday. People wishing to apply had to show that they were enrolled in high school or in adult education classes or that they had graduated from high school or obtained a GED. One also could not have been convicted of three or more misdemeanors, a significant misdemeanor, or an aggravated felony. Furthermore, in order to apply one had to be at least fifteen years old. Those who applied and were eligible, were granted DACA status and were given an employment authorization card which allowed them to work legally in the United States and obtain a driver’s license.Through executive action, President Obama has now expanded DACA to allow for people who arrived prior to January 1, 2010 to apply. Furthermore, he has removed the upper age limit restriction and now any person born prior to June 15, 1981 may apply. In order to apply a person must also demonstrate that they arrived prior to their sixteenth birthday, have had continuous presence, are either enrolled in high school or in adult education classes or that they had graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and must pass a security background check. Those who wish to apply under the new requirements must wait until February for USCIS to publish an updated application form.
The final change to the DACA program is that a person will granted deferred action for three years as opposed to two years. Applications that are currently pending, if granted, will be granted for three years.
- Creation of Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)
Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, also known as DAP or DAPA, is a program created by President Obama through executive action. A person is eligible for DAPA if they are an undocumented individual living in the United States as of January 1, 2010 and is the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident born prior to November 20, 2014. This includes people who are parents to adult children as well as minors. People applying for DAPA must demonstrate continuous residence in the United States for the past five years and that they were present in the United States on November 20, 2014. Each applicant must also pass a security background check and must not be a person considered to be an enforcement priority for removal.It is important to note, that the application for DAPA is not available and will most likely not be available for 180 days. However, during this time it is recommended that people who are eligible begin to collect documents to demonstrate their identity and continuous presence. USCIS has not released any information regarding the cost of the application.
- Expansion of Provisional Waivers
Certain individuals who entered the United States without inspection and have accrued more than one year of unlawful presence must file a waiver of inadmissibility in order to complete the consular process and have their application approved. The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows individuals, who only need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence, to apply for a waiver in the United States before they depart for their immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Currently, only spouses of U.S. citizens and children of U.S. citizen parents are eligible to apply for the provisional waiver.Part of the executive action is to expand the provisional waiver program by allowing the spouses, sons or daughters of lawful permanent residents, and sons and daughters of U.S. citizens to get a waiver if a visa is available. USCIS is expected to release more information regarding when this will be effective.
If you have questions about your ability to apply for any of the programs under President Obama’s executive action, then contact Attorney Lisa Rivas in our Danbury office. She will be able to help you navigate the many different and complicated immigration laws and programs.