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President Announces Immigration Action, Implementation Will Take Several Months


Tonight, President Obama addressed the nation and announced that he was taking administrative actions to improve the immigration system in the absence of congressional action to enact comprehensive immigration refor

In the employment-based immigration realm, the White House indicated that the Department of Homeland Security will propose new regulations in three areas. The first proposed regulation will allow individuals currently facing the long visa backlogs in the employment-based second and third preference categories to request “preregistration” of their adjustment of status applications, allowing them to receive the benefits of employment authorization, travel documentation and job flexibility. These benefits are currently unavailable until the individual’s visa quota becomes current. The second proposed regulation would make changes to the Optional Practical Training system, though the exact changes were not specified. Finally, the third action will create new pathways to the US for some foreign entrepreneurs investing in US businesses or attracting investment to a US business, but the contours of this proposal remain to be defined.

In addition, the White House announced that a previously proposed regulation allowing certain H-4 spouses to be employed will be finalized, but did not provide a timeframe for doing so.

Because the President’s actions in the business arena will have to be implemented with regulations, we do not anticipate that any of these benefits will be available in the next several months. In fact, because the process of getting regulations approved is so lengthy, the final rules implementing any of these actions may not be in place until the end of 2015 or even into 2016. Therefore, there will unfortunately be no immediate benefit to backlogged employment-based visa applicants from the president’s administrative actions; however, we can be hopeful that H-4 work authorization will come in early 2015, with rules for I-485 preregistration later in the year.

The most significant action the president announced was the creation of a program to allow parents of United States citizen and of lawful permanent resident children to apply for temporary deferrals of deportation. This program will be similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in its eligibility requirements. It will be open to individuals without status who have resided in the United States since before January 1, 2010. Likewise, the current DACA program will be expanded to include individuals who entered the United States prior to January 1, 2010, and were below age 16 at the time, and the current age limit of thirty-three for DACA recipients will be lifted. The White House has stated that application processes for these new benefits will not be available until the spring of 2015 at the earliest.

We will continue to provide updates as further details become available on the President’s immigration actions.

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