US executive action promises important new immigration benefits for some

US President Obama announced on November 20, 2014 a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the US without fear of deportation.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) announced that it is not yet accepting any applications for benefits under this program, stating that “[s]ome initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer.”

Among the President’s initiatives is a plan to modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs.  This is intended to primarily benefit US businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors and skilled foreign workers.

The USCIS states that it will implement this initiative as follows:

  • Work with the Department of State to develop a method to allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas.
  • Work with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability.
  • Provide clarity on adjustment portability to remove unnecessary restrictions on natural career progression and general job mobility to provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.
  • Clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the US economy.
  • Authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who:
    • Have been awarded substantial US investor financing; or
    • Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
    • Finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status.
    • Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law.
    • Provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

There is an additional, well publicized initiative to provide temporary legal status to certain individuals who have been in the US unlawfully for a continuous period of more than 5 years, if they are the parent of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.  More details on all of the initiatives can be found at the USCIS web site.

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Matt Schulz

About Matt Schulz

Matt Schulz is a member of Dentons' Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice with a focus on business immigration and employment law. He is a leader in the firm's Global Mobility practice and a member of Dentons' Venture Technology and Emerging Growth Companies practice.

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