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Five Things to Know About How President Obama’s Executive Action Impacts Undocumented Immigrants

Cecelia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, outlines the five things that you need to know about how the the President’s initiatives will impact undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Last week, the President took action to fix as much of our broken immigration system as possible within the scope of his existing legal authority. The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions are an important step to fix our broken immigration system. Millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the shadows want to play by the rules, pay their fair share of taxes, and get right with the law. The President is taking action to fix as much of the problem as he can, while continuing to work with Congress to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform bill.

The President has been clear that he can’t fix the immigration system entirely on his own; whatever action he takes will not be a substitute for long-lasting solutions that only comprehensive immigration legislation can provide.

Here are the five things that you should know about the President’s initiatives impacting undocumented immigrants in the United States.

1. You must meet strict requirements to qualify for relief from deportation.

Eligible immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks and pay a fee. They will also be eligible for work authorization and must start paying their fair share of taxes. To qualify, individuals must show that they are:

  • A parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident as of the date of the announcement (regardless of the age of the child), have been in the United States for at least five years (starting on January 1, 2010), are not an enforcement priority, and present no other factors that would make a grant of deferred action inappropriate, or
  • An individual who arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 years old and has been continuously present for at least five years (starting on January 1, 2010) regardless of how old they are today, and present no other factors that would make a grant of deferred action inappropriate.

2. You cannot apply for several months.

The U.S. government—and specifically USCIS—will not begin accepting applications until early to mid-2015, depending on the program.  But while the government is not accepting applications now, if you believe you are eligible for one or more of the initiatives, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your identity, relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (if applying on that basis) and show that you have continuously lived in the United States for at least five years. To receive updates when new information is available, subscribe to this page.

3. Recent border crossers will be a priority for deportation.

You must have been in the United States for at least five years to qualify for these programs. These executive actions will not benefit immigrants who recently crossed the border, who may cross the border in the future, or who help those who cross in the future, but rather immigrants who have been living in the United States for years.  By refocusing our border security, the President’s actions have increased the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally today will be caught and then sent back. 

4. If you commit fraud, you will not qualify.

USCIS will carefully review each case. As with other immigration requests, knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject applicants to potential criminal prosecution or removal from the United States—so it is critical to provide truthful and accurate information and documentation.

5. Beware of immigration scams.

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off. So please be mindful of scams and potential fraud out there. Learn tips on how to avoid them here.

Make sure you remain informed and know when the application process starts and visit will be the authoritative source of information about eligibility and you can subscribe to get updates here