Last November, President Obama suggested executive actions related to immigration, after the Congress failed to clear the immigration reform bill – it is the same senate that approved immigration bill in June 2013!
As on date, there are 11 million immigrants in the US, who aren’t documented yet. Out of the 11 million, 19% are Chinese, 18% Filipinos, 16% Indians, 15% Koreans, 11% Vietnamese and 21% come under Other APA category. In the year 2007 alone APA families used 64% of the issued visas were for adult and married children of US citizens and 75% of all visas that were issued to siblings of US citizens. Back in 2012, 1.8 million API family based visa applications were due for clearance, which means, it would take Chinese and Indian applications up to 10 years and 23 years for Filipinos before they can evoke any response! Do you know 63% of foreign-born STEM employees are non-Hispanic, Asian descent?
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
DACA is one program that offers temporary work authorization and deportation relief for individuals who were bright as kids to the US. This program comes under United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency.
As individual is eligible for DACA if he / she meets the following criteria, as on Nov 20, 2014:
Resided in the US continuously since January 1, 2010.
Don’t hold legal immigration status on Nov 20, 2014.
Is either studying in school, is graduated or has got a completion certification from a high school, or
Has cleared general education development (GED) or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Armed Forced or the Coast Guard of the US.
Clears background check.
Isn’t considered as an enforcement priority, including misdemeanors or felonies or any suspected gang activity or domestic violence.
DACA expansion is expected around February, though USCIS has granted a three-year deferment, instead of two-year deferment.
Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA)
DAPA also comes under USCIS and offers temporary work authorization and deportation relief for parents of lawful permanent residents (LPR) and US citizens. Around 400, 000 Asian Pacific Islanders come under the purview of DAPA. Individuals eligible for DAPA should meet the following criteria:
Do not hold immigration status on November 20, 2014.
Have continuously resided in the US since January 1, 2010.
We in the US on November 20, 2014 and at the time of application.
Have an LPR or US citizen child on November 20, 2014.
Clear background check.
Aren’t considered as enforcement priority, including misdemeanors, felonies or suspected gang activity or domestic violence.
DAPA is scheduled for implementation in May 2015.
DAPA and DACA should be renewed once in three years (previously two years), with each application costing $465. DAPA and DACA recipients aren’t eligible for federal benefits, with an exception of few states.
There was no announcement regarding Visa backlogs in the President’s announcement. But, his Visa Modernization Memorandum allows an interagency group to submit suggestions to the President before March 20, 2015. The main goal of this task force is to enhance efficacy and make sure all visas are used and improve the infrastructure.
Also, the President has ordered to expand the provisional waivers for family members to USCIS. According to the new change, adult children of US citizens, lawful permanent residents and minor children and spouse are also eligible. However, they should prove their absence would create “extreme hardship” for US or LPR spouse or parent. USCIS is also instructed to define “extreme hardship.”
The President has suggested USCIS improve employment-based immigration system with a few changes.
A few proposed include, but are not limited to:
USCIS is suggested to look for ways to reduce visa-processing time
Make sure that visas are authorized and used by eligible applicants
Eligible applicants will not lose their place if they change employers / jobs, provided they have long-standing employment visa petitions
Expand degrees allowed for OPT application
OPT (Optical Practice Training) program changes to allow international STEM students on F-1 visas to prolong their duration for training purposes.
More opportunities for researchers, foreign investors and start-up founders, to name a few.
As on Jan 2015, USCIS will begin to accept naturalization fees through credit and also a possibility of partial fee waiver for following biennial study is recommended.
In most cases, the terms or definitions aren’t straightforward or easy to understand for layman. Also, fulfilling the documentation and keeping oneself updated with constantly changing regulations can be quite difficult for an individual. By using a law firm, they will exactly know the current legal changes and how they influence decisions related to immigration. Also, with so many backlogs, one can’t risk trial and error. A law firm will be able to guide with the procedures and get the process expedited and cleared in the first attempt.