President Obama

President Obama’s Immigration Reforms

On Thursday November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced his actions to reform our immigration system. These actions will affect millions of people, which may include you, your family, and/or your friends and co-workers.

Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented Individuals: Major Expansion of Deferred Action

The President announced that there will be two new programs for undocumented people currently in the United States. Qualified individuals will receive a work permit and the right to stay in the United States for three years before renewal is required. These programs target:

  1. Individuals with a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident child who have lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
  2. Individuals who entered before the age of 16, regardless of their current age, and who are either in school, have a HS diploma or GED, are studying for a GED, or are/were in the military.
The White House announced two other major changes affecting some undocumented individuals.
  1. Expansion of the Provisional Waiver Program: Certain relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents may now apply for waivers of visa ineligibility due to unlawful presence in the United States.
  2. Expansion of Military Parole-in-Place: The program providing “parole in place” to undocumented family members of U.S. military veterans and active duty service-members will be expanded to undocumented family members of people seeking to enlist in the U.S. military (as some military branches do not allow enlistment by individuals with undocumented relatives). This benefit is a first step toward enabling the relatives to seek legal permanent immigration status without leaving the United States to do so. 

Skilled Workers

Improved Immigration Options for Skilled Workers and Their Families

President Obama indicated he wants to improve many other aspects of the immigration system through regulations and improved policy guidance. At this point the details of the forthcoming reforms are quite vague, but here is our understanding of what is likely to happen.

  1. Foreign Entrepreneurs. Certain investors will receive the benefit of parole to enable their immediate entry into the United States with the right to live and work in the United States before achieving permanent resident status. Also, entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, and founders will be eligible for national interest waivers.
  2. Backlogged Priority Dates. It is expected that individuals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition (I-140) who are caught in the quota backlogs may file for adjustment of status and will receive the benefits of a pending adjustment application, including a travel permit and an open-market work card.
  3. H-4 Employment Authorization. Individuals in H-4 status, whose spouses have an approved I-140 will be eligible to receive work authorization.
  4. OPT. Optional Practical Training for STEM graduates will be expanded.
  5. Visa Modernization. The visa system will be modernized and this may include making additional visas available based upon visa issuance lower than the allowed maximum in prior years and not counting family members toward the annual quotas, which would greatly alleviate the backlog in priority dates. There has not been any clear guidance on this issue.

None of these actions have been implemented yet. Once further guidance and policy memorandum are released we will know many more details. We will keep you up-to-date through our immigration blog.