On the evening of Nov. 20, President Obama addressed the nation on his plans to overhaul the current immigration policies in lieu of more proactive measures. As it stands, the president is allowing undocumented immigrants who entered the country before June 15, 2007 to temporarily stay and work without the risk of deportation, assuming they meet the other necessary requirements.
In a similar way, the president intends to provide relief for those who fall under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by granted deferred deportation (three years) if the entered prior to Jan. 1 2010 and before turning 16 years old.
In his White House address, the President quoted Scripture stating, “We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger–we were strangers once, too.”
One of the critical components of the President’s executive action is a focus on enhancing security at the border by adding additional Border Patrol agents and deporting individuals who pose a threat to national security (i.e., those suspected of terrorism, gang affiliations, violent crime offenders, etc.).
Deportation of Felons, Not Families
At the heart of the program, stirring much controversy, is a new policy allowing illegal immigrants with U.S. born children to gain legal status. In total, roughly four million people will be eligible for this program but they must first:
- Complete and pass thorough background check
- Submit biometric data
- Pay the applicable fees
- Prove their child was born prior to this executive action
- Pay their share of taxes.
In return, they will be entitled to a Social Security card and the ability to legally work in the country for three years at a time. By offering individuals an opportunity to “come out of the shadows,” the government will also be better able to identify companies hiring illegal workers and ensure that everyone is paying their proper taxes.
Advantages for H-4 Spouses
The President contends that he “will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy…” In an effort to streamline legal immigration while simultaneously boosting the economy, official reports confirm that that the new rules will permit eligible H-4 spouses to receive employment authorization documents (EADs) and the stringent rules for H1B workers (with approved petitions) will be loosened a bit to permit movement between sponsoring employers.
Greater Options for Foreign Entrepreneurs
In an attempt to attract foreign entrepreneurs and support the U.S. economy, the Department of Homeland Security will offer enhanced options for individuals who meet specific criteria. Among the list of requirements is an income threshold to prevent them from capitalizing on public benefits like welfare and tax credits provided under the Affordable Care Act.
Additional Options for Naturalization Fees
The DHS has plans to further public awareness and promote attention to immigration concerns in the top ten states which home 75% of the legal permanent resident (LPR) population. What’s more, the USCIS will broaden the options for paying naturalization fees to accommodate more individuals and look into expanding accessibility (e.g. partial fee waivers).
The Application Process
The USCIS has not begun accepting applications yet; the estimated time frame is early 2015. In the meantime, however, you can still begin preparing the appropriate documents to verify your identity and prove that you have resided in the U.S. consistently for the last five years or longer. It’s best to seek professional assistance to ensure you have all the necessary documents lined up and to submit your application at the proper time.
To Compliment These Changes…
Following this momentous announcement, the Obama administration is strongly urging Congress to pass a bill (like the Senate bill) that will:
- Continue to strengthen border security by supplementing the current structure with an additional 20,000 agents
- Enforce more rigorous crackdowns on companies who hire undocumented immigrants
- Develop an appropriate “earned path to citizenship” for immigrants to pay their share of taxes and fees, pass background checks, and learn English
How Our Attorneys Can Help
The changes outlined in the President’s Executive Order are a welcome relief for nearly five million immigrants living in the U.S. Based on the President’s comments, he seems hopeful that the action will be advantageous for both the U.S. economy and foreign nationals. Consult with one of our immigration attorneys to determine how these new policies may affect your current situation.