On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced plans for executive action regarding enforcement of US immigration regulations and policies. 

What Does This Announcement Include?

Key among the proposals announced by President Obama are:

  1. Allowing individuals with approved employment-based I-140 Immigrant Petitions to submit an Adjustment of Status Application despite the current backlogs in certain employment-based categories;
  2. Publication of formal guidance regarding the definition of “specialized knowledge’ in the L-1B context;
  3. Employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses in certain circumstances;
  4. Extended availability of OPT work authorization for students with STEM degrees;
  5. Review of the current method of counting immigrant visas (green cards) to provide relief for those waiting in backlogs for many permanent residence categories;
  6. Deportation deferral for the undocumented parents of US citizens and permanent residents who have resided in the country for at least five years; and
  7. Expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allowed young immigrants, under 30 years old, who arrived illegally as children to apply for a deportation deferral.

Based on these proposals, the Department of Homeland Security also released a memo regarding new proposed actions that the agencies would take to reform employment-based immigration processes. 

What Does This Announcement Not Include?

A number of issues that were included in last year’s failed Immigration Reform proposal were not included in this executive action, including a path to citizenship for currently undocumented foreign nationals.  Most importantly for employers, the plan includes no expansion of the number of H-1B visas made available each year, resulting in a likely continuance of the current H-1B lottery system.

At present, there is no proposed timeframe for the implementation of these executive actions.  Opponents of the President’s action have stated that they will try to stop the President’s planned executive action either through legislation, litigation, or budgetary methods.