Preparing For Obama’s New Executive Action for Immigration Benefits

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his “immigration accountability executive action”, an immigration executive order that will help millions of immigrants apply for Deferred Action and work permits, and will also make it easier for many immigrant parents to apply for permanent residency. Although the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not yet ready to take in applications, there are steps you can take now to be one of the first people to file for the benefits.

What are the immigration changes Under the President’s New Executive Order?

  •  Expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for those who came into the U.S. at the age of 15 or younger (regardless of whether you are under the age of 31); Applicants will be able to file with USCIS starting February 18, 2014.
  • Creation of a deferred action program for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children (DAPA);
  • Stop the deportation of certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident children (Prosecutorial Discretion);
  •  Expansion of provisional waivers (I-601A) to include the spouses and sons and daughters of US citizens and permanent residents.

Who is eligible for the Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?

  • Entered the United States before age 16.
  • Have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2012 until the present date.
  • Graduated from High School OR are currently enrolled in school.
  • Were present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014.
  • Do not have any significant criminal offenses.

Who is eligible for the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability Program (DAPA)?

To be eligible for deferred action under DAPA, you must:

  • Be the parent of a son or daughter (regardless of age) that was a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as of November 20, 2014.
  • Have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 until the present date (brief departures during this time may be okay, on a case by case basis).
  • Have been physically present in the U.S on November 20, 2014 and at the time of filing.
  • Not have lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014.
  • Have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses, including any felonies and some misdemeanors.

What are the benefits of DACA and DAPA?

  • You will receive Employment Authorization to work lawfully in the U.S., renewable every three years.
  • Relief from deportation (as long as you maintain status and do not commit a criminal offense).
  •  May apply for a Travel Permit.
  •  You will be able to apply for and receive a Social Security Number.
  •  You may be eligible for state benefits and privileges, such as a driver’s license, in-state tuition, and professional licenses. Currently, DACA grantees can get a driver’s license in every state except Arizona and Nebraska.
  • If you are married to a U.S. citizen and would require a waiver of inadmissibility before applying for your green card, obtaining DACA or DAPA first could relieve the need to apply for a waiver. Speak to an immigration attorney to see if this is an option for you.

Remember, DACA or DAPA is NOT a path to permanent residency or citizenship. If you have a separate basis to apply for residency you should contact a qualified immigration attorney to analyze your options.

When can I apply for the new benefits?

Even if you are eligible for the new immigration benefits, you cannot apply for them yet! The government expects that they will start accepting applications by February 20, 2015 from people who are eligible for the expanded DACA, and by May 20, 2015 from people who are eligible for DAPA.

How much will DACA or DAPA cost?

Currently, the government filing fees for DACA are $465 (paid with check or money order). Most likely, the fees will remain the same for a request under DAPA. The attorney’s fees are additional.

Do I need an attorney to file for benefits?

It depends. The benefit of using an attorney is to make sure (1) your application is submitted correctly to decrease the chances of a denial, rejection, or significant delay and (2) to make sure you are truly eligible for the benefit and that you will not be placed at risk by submitting your information to the government. Furthermore, an attorney can analyze your case in its entirety, and may recommend another immigration option that may lead towards permanent residency and citizenship.

Applicants with the following cases should take precaution, and speak with a qualified immigration attorney before submitting anything with the government:

  • Prior orders of removal by an immigration judge;
  •  If you were apprehended at the border and were given “expedite removal”;
  •  If you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime;
  • If you have left the United States at any point since January 1, 2010;
  • If you have applied for an immigration benefit in the past, such as a claim for asylum or a work permit.

Is it safe to hire a notario to file my case?

In the U.S., Notarios are not attorneys or legal representatives. They are not authorized to practice immigration law or to give advice regarding legal matters. If a notario harms your case or your future ability to apply for an immigration benefit, the notario is not held accountable. Conversely, U.S. immigration attorneys are licensed to practice law, and any malpractice by the attorney can be reported to the State Bar resulting in the attorney being disciplined or having their license taken away. Because attorneys can be reprimanded, they are inherently more careful about giving accurate representation to their clients.

As attorneys, we have seen many cases where notarios have taken the applicant’s money without submitting paperwork, or even worse, they have placed an applicant at risk for deportation or have messed up a case so badly that the damage they caused cannot be fixed. This is your future. Do not risk it by seeking the “help” of someone who does not know the dangers of taking on an immigration case without the experience.

What can I do to start preparing to file?

  • Gather documents to prove your identity (e.g. current passport, birth certificate, matricula consular, driver’s license).
  • Gather documents to prove your son or daughter was a U.S. citizen or permanent resident on November 20, 2014 (e.g. U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, permanent resident card).
  • Gather documents that prove you have lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 and up until the present date (e.g. pay stubs, Federal Income Tax Retuns, W2s, utility bills, employment records, school records, hospital records, church records, property ownership, etc.).
  • Gather documents to prove that you were present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014.
  • Save Money for the government filing fee of $465 and the related attorneys fees.
  • Do NOT leave the United States without speaking to an immigration attorney.
  • Speak with a qualified immigration attorney to make sure you qualify.

If you are applying under the expanded DACA, you must also have proof that you entered the U.S. at age 15 or younger, and you must have completed high school or you must be enrolled in school at the time of submitting your application.

What will happen if the DAPA and DACA programs do not get renewed in three years? Will I be deported?

Submitting your information to USCIS can be scary. While we don’t know if the program will be renewed in three years, we DO know that the government does not have the resources to deport every undocumented person in the U.S. Remember that if you are granted DAPA or DACA, USCIS has decided that you are a “low priority” for deportation.

Ultimately, you will have to decide whether the benefits of DAPA and DACA (a work permit, SSN, and ability to travel outside of the U.S.) are worth applying for. It is recommended you speak with an immigration attorney about any particular concerns, particularly if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

NOTE: The information provided contains general information and is not legal advice. Every case is different and as such, intending applicants should contact a qualified immigration attorney to obtain accurate, case specific information.

To speak to an experienced immigration attorney, contact Isabel Cueva at 801-893-1485.