Obama's immigration executive actions impact many areas of immigration- from entrepreneur options and ICE officer pay to border enforcement. The two areas which have received the most attention, however, are the Deferred Action for Parents ("DAPA") and expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA").
There are still many unknowns about the new programs, but now we know generally who will qualify, and have answers to some key questions.
The largest new program will be DAPA, which generally covers out of status foreign nationals who:
1. Have a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen child as of November 20, 2014, and
2. Have been in the United States since January 1, 2010
3. Are not considered "enforcement priorities" as defined by DHS, including applicants who have certain kinds of criminal convictions.
It is important to understand that these are just the main requirements, and some of the details are still being worked out. Therefore, not everyone who meets these qualifications will be able to get DAPA.
DACA was announced in June, 2012 to include those who arrived in the U.S. before their sixteenth birthday, and who either graduated high school or were enrolled in a high school or equivalent program. Like DAPA, it also has more detailed requirements, such as certain criminal bars.
DACA will be expanded in two key areas.
1. Removing the age cap. Previously, only those who were under 31 on June 15, 2012 were eligible.
2. Moving the entry date to January 1, 2010. Previously, applicants needed to be in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
Frequently asked questions from potential DACA and DAPA applicants
What do you get with DACA and DAPA?
If you receive DAPA or DACA, you will be given work authorization and be protected from deportation. You may be able to get a document which will allow you to leave and re-enter the United States, but this is not certain.
Are DAPA and DACA permanent?
No. It is very important to understand that neither DAPA nor DACA are permanent, or even guaranteed for any specific amount of time. Unlike regular immigration statuses, both DAPA and DACA are part of a program created by the President. When a new President takes officer in January, 2017 he or she can end the program.
At this point, we can only guess who the next President will be, and whether he or she will continue the new program. I personally believe that unless there is some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, DAPA and DACA will continue through the next presidency. It would be very difficult politically to end the programs. Not only would it impact millions of people with DAPA and DACA, it would harm their employers. Again, however, this is just a prediction- there is no way of knowing how long DAPA or DACA will last.
Can I apply for DAPA or expanded DACA now?
No. DHS expects to have the expanded DAPA program available by February 15, 2015, and DAPA by May, 2015. Right now, there are no forms to even apply for these programs. We also still don't know key information like what the filing fee will be, or where to send the applications.
Also, be prepared to wait after you file the applications as well. Right now, USCIS is estimating that it may take until the end of 2016 to decide all of the DAPA applications is receives.
If I can't apply now, is there anything I can do to prepare?
Yes. First, start gathering the documents you will need to prove you meet the requirements we know now. This could include birth and marriage certificates for DAPA, and school records for DACA. Both require proof of presence since January 1, 2010- this can be things like bills, school records, pay stubs, taxes, receipts, and nearly anything with your name and the date on it. If you have ever been arrested, you should get certified dispositions of your criminal court records.
It is especially important to know that DAPA will require you to prove you here November 20, 2014. Unlike the general presence requirement, which can have documents from every few months, it is important to have something as close as November 20, 2014 as possible. If you have any receipts or other documents from November 20th or shortly before, be sure to save them. You may also want to hold on to any bills which include activity from around that time- such as cell phones. While it isn't ideal, you may even want to save activity on social media, like Instagram pictures or check-ins on.
We will continue to blog more about the upcoming changes, especially as more details are released. Therefore, please check this site frequently for more news.
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