What You Need to Know: Immigration Reform

Immigration reform has been all the buzz since President Barack Obama announced his plans last week. Here is what you need to know.

President Obama announced an executive order for immigration reform.

What is an executive order? Law or order issued by the President. Typically a law starts out as a bill and must be approved by Congress. Read more about how a law is created in the United States. 

This Saturday Night Live skit helps explain the difference between a bill becoming a law and an executive order.

So what did President Obama announce? To fully understand, you must know what DACA means:

What is DACA? Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It allows certain illegal immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.

This information comes from Margaret W. Wong & Associates:

  • Expand DACA: Implement a deferred action program for the parents with U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children, extend provisional waivers to the children and spouses of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and streamline the immigration process for high skilled workers.
  •  President Obama has expanded DACA by removing the upper age restriction, allowing individuals born before June 15, 1981 to apply. The residency requirement has also changed: DACA applicants must demonstrate they have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, as opposed to June 15, 2007.
  • Finally, the deferred action period and work authorization will be extended from two years to three. Applications for the newly expanded DACA program will be available in 90 Days.
  • Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) will apply to parents of U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010. In order to qualify, applicants must pass a criminal background check and pay taxes. If they are eligible, deferred action and work authorization will be granted for 3 years. It is important to note that DAP will not apply to the parents of DACA recipients or long term residents who do not have children.
  • President Obama has also expanded the I-601A provisional waiver program announced in 2013 to include the spouses and children of legal permanent residents. The children of U.S. citizens may also obtain a waiver if a visa is available. Furthermore, the meaning of the “extreme hardship” standard, required to get a waiver, has been clarified.
  • Included in the President’s executive action is a plan to modernize, improve, and clarify immigrant and non-immigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs. Optional Practical Training (OPT) will be extended for foreign students while spouses of H-1B recipients will be allowed to apply for work permits and high skilled immigrants will have the freedom to change jobs during the green card process.


Photo courtesy of ewi.org
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