Friday, November 21, 2014

​Newsflash – President Obama Announces Initiatives for Executive Actions on Immigration

On Thursday evening, November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions for national immigration reform in a 15-minute address from the East Room of the White House.  The President’s plan will focus on three main points, which include strengthening border security and cracking down on illegal immigration, prioritizing the deportation of felons and keeping families together, and requiring certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

The most significant new initiatives under the President’s immigration plan will include the following:
  • Employees with an approved employment-based immigration petition (I-140) will be able to “pre-register” for adjustment of status while they wait for their visa number to become current.  This would make them eligible to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment application, including Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), effectively eliminating the risk of running out of temporary visas (and being forced to depart the U.S.) prior to becoming eligible to file for adjustment of status. This provision will benefit EB-3 workers facing long visa backlogs.   Please see the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Optimizing government systems to make sure every available green card visa number is used, including, in some cases, the recapturing of unused visa numbers, in order to reduce the long wait periods and government backlogs that many immigrants currently face during the green card application process.  Please see Part A of the related DHS memo for more information.
  • Providing Employment Authorization Document (EAD) eligibility for certain H-4 dependents whose H-1B spouses have started their permanent residence process.  In this regard, USCIS plans to finalize a previously announced rule.   Please visit this link for more information. 
  • Making National Interest Waiver (NIW) green card applications available for researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and founders of start-up companies without employer sponsorship, in order to benefit the U.S. economy and technology and business sectors.  Please see Part C of the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Granting parole status to inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up companies who may not yet qualify for NIW green cards, but who either (1) have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing, or (2) hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies and pursuit of cutting edge research.   Please see Part C of the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Issuing guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring clarity to the L-1B visa program, including improving adjudication and enhancing the employers’ confidence in the program.  Please visit this link and see Part D of the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Extending the usual 29 months of F-1 status Optical Practice Training (OPT) Employment Authorization for students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at U.S. universities, and expanding the academic fields under STEM.  This measure will provide additional options for U.S. college graduates transitioning to other temporary and permanent visas, as well as U.S. employers wishing to retain skilled workers.  Please see Part B of the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Modernizing and clarifying labor certification processes and rules, including implementing new recruitment guidelines and premium processing of PERM labor certification application.  Please see the related DOL fact sheet for more information. 
  • Promoting the naturalization process by implementing credit card processing and expanding public awareness.  Please see the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Providing provisional waivers for spouses and children of legal permanent residents prior to departing the U.S. for a consular interview abroad.  Please see the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • An estimated 4.4 million undocumented immigrants will be granted work authorization and shielded against deportation for three years if they are either: 1) a parent of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident child of any age, who has been in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010; or 2) a child who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, is now over the age of 15, has been in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010, has a high school degree, and has no serious criminal record.  Individuals who fall under the first category will be required to pass background checks and pay taxes in order to qualify for the three-yield shield.  Please see the related DHS memo for more information. 
  • Prioritizing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations to include (1) suspected terrorists, convicted felons, convicted gang members, and individuals apprehended at the border; (2) individuals convicted of serious or multiple misdemeanors, and border crossings after January 1, 2014; and (3) individuals who failed to leave after January 1, 2014 under a removal order, or those who returned following a removal.  Please see the related DHS memos here and here for more information. 
  • Expanding parole-in-place to include families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces.  Please see the related DHS memo for more information. 
Please feel free to contact our firm with any questions or concerns about the new immigration initiatives.

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