President Obama announced sweeping changes to the immigration application process on November 20, 2014. These changes are not statutes. Rather, they are executive actions. Thus, they garnered a lot of criticism by the Republican-led Congress.
As part of his address regarding immigration application process and reform, President Obama promised to tighten enforcement of the borders, focus resources on deporting immigrants convicted of violent crimes and felonies, and permitting temporary residency for immigrants who pass criminal background checks and pay taxes.
The crux of the reform program lies in five separate initiatives:
- Creating the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program
- Expanding eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program
- Developing publicity programs for the citizenship eligibility and application process, as well as increasing the number of services for lawful permanent residents
- Fixing issues with various visa programs in order to enable more immigrants to lawfully work
- Expanding waivers to include spouses, sons, and daughters
Deferred Action for Parents:
As part of the reform of the immigration application process and Under the Deferred Action for Parents program, USCIS will now permit alien parents of both U.S. citizens and green card holders to remain in the U.S. for three years pending a final decision on their immigration status. This is known as deferred action because it defers the immigration decision and allows the alien to remain in the U.S. pending that decision. In addition, under the program, the alien will be permitted to legally work in the U.S. Eligibility for this program includes: (1) the parent must pass a criminal background check and (2) the parent must have lived in the U.S. continuously for the past five years.
This program targets undocumented immigrants. It also seeks to find a way to document them by removing the fear of immediate deportation. The parent must not be an enforcement priority for removal. Not all applications under the program receive approval, though President Obama did not state what percentage of applicants should expect approval. USCIS has ultimate discretion and will decide on a case-by-case basis.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals:
Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, if you are an alien who (1) moved to the U.S. prior to January 1, 2010 (2) when you were a child under the age of 16 and (3) have remained in the U.S. ever since, you can be eligible to legally work in the U.S. for 2-3 years. This program is also aimed at undocumented immigrants. Enrollment in this program is available for renewal after expiration.
USCIS will also be providing more educational materials and programs designed to assist lawful permanent residents with the naturalization process. In addition, applicants can now use credit cards to pay for fees and may be eligible for fee waivers.
USCIS will be working with the Department of State to streamline the visa process for immigrants who wish to work in the U.S. The old system was incredibly slow, leading to lengthy delays and preventing workers from beginning their jobs. The new system will partner with the Department of State to modernize the application and approval process. This intends to more easily review eligibility and issue visas. This will assist more immigrants with entering the U.S. to work when sponsored by an employer. According to President Obama, this will improve the economy and create more jobs. In addition, the President hopes to encourage more inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers to take up residence in the U.S.
Finally, the executive order expands provisional waiver eligibility. Prior to the executive order, only minor children and spouses of U.S. citizens could receive provisional waivers. However, now, children and spouses of lawful permanent residents can also receive a waiver. These family members must have resided in the U.S. for at least 180 days undocumented to be eligible to apply.
Reach Out To Our Tulsa Immigration Attorneys:
The immigration application process is currently in reform, with more opportunities for those who are seeking legal immigration status. This enhanced immigration application process is helping countless families and individuals to live in the United States on get on the path to legalization in many cases.