President Obama Announces Executive Action on Immigration

New opportunities for undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children, undocumented students who grew up in the U.S., relatives of lawful permanent residents, and more.

NOTE: THIS UPDATE WAS WRITTEN IN 2014. IT REFERS TO ACTIONS WHICH HAVE SINCE BEEN PLACED ON PERMANENT HOLD BY THE U.S. FEDERAL COURTS, INCLUDING THE U.S. SUPREME COURT, WITH ITS JUNE 2016 DECISION IN U.S. v. TEXAS.

On November 20, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced several new immigration initiatives scheduled to be implemented in upcoming months. The President’s executive action most notably will allow a greater number of undocumented immigrants to delay deportation and apply for work permits.

The highlights of the President’s plan are as follows:

DACA Expanded to Include Older Immigrants and Extended to Three Years: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be expanded to include all young people who arrived in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2010 before turning 16 years old. This removes the current upper age limit requiring applicants to have been 31 or younger when the program was first enacted on June 15, 2012. In addition, new applicants for DACA relief and DACA renewals will be able to defer deportation and receive work authorization for three years rather than just two. For more information and updates when they become available, see Nolo’s DACA section.

Many Parents of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents Will Be Able to Apply for Work Permits: Relief from deportation will also be offered to the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent resident (LPR) under the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. This will allow undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 with a U.S. citizen child or LPR born on or before November 20, 2014 to apply for employment authorization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will decide DAPA applications on a case-by-case basis.

Provisional Waivers of Unlawful Presence Available to More Family Members: The provisional waiver of unlawful presence (or “stateside waiver”) currently allows immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible for adjustment of status to learn whether or not their illegal stay in the U.S. will be forgiven before leaving the U.S. to apply for a visa at a consulate. This waiver will soon be extended to immediate family members of permanent residents, who also will be able to apply for this waiver if a visa is available to someone in their category.

New Opportunities for Foreign Graduates and Highly Skilled Workers: President’s Obama plan also aims to increase opportunities for participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) graduates, enabling foreign students to stay in the U.S. for a limited time after completing their degree programs. In addition, the Obama administration is seeking greater use of "parole," which would allow U.S. entry to highly skilled workers and inventors looking to invest in the U.S. economy while they wait for a more long-term status.

There is no way to apply for any of the new forms of relief offered by President Obama's order yet, so be aware of scams by unscrupulous immigration practitioners. Stay tuned for Nolo's updates on these programs and more information about how to apply for immigration relief in the upcoming weeks and months.