Last night President Obama announced a series of  executive actions to address problems under the current U.S. immigration system.  These executive actions include the following key initiatives:

Expanded DACA Program.  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will be expanded to include young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are now.  Also, the period of DACA and work authorization will be extended from two years to three years.

New Deferred Action Program for Parents of US Citizens and Permanent Residents.  Parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) who have been in the country since January 1, 2010 will be allowed to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years as part of a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, provided they pass required background checks.

Expanded Use of Provisional Waivers.  The use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence will be expanded to include the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and the adult children of US citizens, and additional guidance will be provided on the definition of “extreme hardship.”

Program Modernization.  Immigrant and nonimmigrant programs will be modernized, improved and clarified.  These measures are expected to reduce green card backlogs, reform Optional Practical Training for foreign students, promote research and development, improve the L-1B visa category, and increase worker portability. Work authorization for spouses of H-1B holders has been in the works since earlier this year.

Increased Access to U.S. Citizenship.  Citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents will be better promoted and encouraged, and an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the $680 application fee will be provided. 

When will these changes be implemented?

While USCIS is not accepting requests or applications at this time, it is responsible for implementing these initiatives as soon as possible.  USCIS has indicated that it should begin accepting applications for the expanded DACA starting in 90 days, and for the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program in approximately 180 days.  Effective November 24, 2014, all first-time DACA applications, under the prior program, and applications for DACA renewal will be eligible for the three-year work permit.  Other programs will be implemented after new guidance and regulations are issued. 

Individuals who think they may be eligible for one of the initiatives may start gathering documents that establish their (a) identity, (b) relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and (c) continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more. 

Where can I get more information?

USCIS published a summary of President Obama’s executive actions online, as well as some helpful Questions & Answers which can be viewed here: http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction