Eligible immigrants in the U.S. without legal status can get three-year work permit

DACA and DAPA could potentially help five million immigrants avoid deportation.

This past fall, President Obama announced that certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and certain child arrivals to the U.S. could petition to avoid deportation under DAPA and DACA. The goal of the program is to keep families of U.S. citizens together and to not punish children who came to the U.S. with their parents without legal status. The action was controversial, and the House of Representatives has already attempted twice to effectively repeal the executive action in 2015, although the attempts did not succeed.

DACA and DAPA overview

On February 18, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) under the President's executive actions. These programs are based on "prosecutorial discretion" - meaning that the DHS authorizes a non-U.S. citizen to remain in the U.S. on a temporary basis, without fear of deportation. However, neither DACA nor DAPA actually grant permanent legal status.

Importantly, an immigrant on deferred action may apply for a work permit for up to three years. Previous DACA programs had allowed a two-year work permit.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible for DAPA, an immigrant must:

  • Be the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR)
  • Be free of certain criminal offenses, including felonies and some misdemeanors
  • Have lived continuously in the U.S. since 2010
  • Been present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014 without lawful status

To be eligible for DACA, an immigrant must:

  • Be free of certain criminal offenses.
  • Have arrived in the U.S. before his or her 16th birthday
  • Lived continuously in the U.S. since 2010
  • Have graduated from high school or obtained a GED certificate, or currently be enrolled in school

Other conditions and considerations apply. Immigrants uncertain about eligibility should contact an experienced immigration law attorney to discuss their eligibility and the benefits of seeking deferred action. Those applying for deferred action must be careful that they meet the criteria for eligibility: Failure to meet the criteria can mean the beginning of removal proceedings.

Immigration law ever-changing

While DAPA and DACA could provide relief to immigrants in the U.S. who want to remain with family, immigration laws today remain complex and relatively uncertain. For example, Senate Democrats filibustered a House Republican Department of Homeland Security funding bill on February 4, 2015, that would have effectively ended DACA and DAPA. Even had the legislation passed, however, President Obama had promised to veto the legislation.

Other attempts to limit DAPA and DACA are underway. To date, 26 states have brought a lawsuit against the President for "executive overreach," although its chance of success is uncertain. Congressional Republicans have also debated bringing a lawsuit.

In addition, Congress continually discusses reforming immigration laws. Many proposals include measures that directly affect immigrants in the U.S. currently without lawful status. That means immigrants in the U.S. seeking deferred action under DAPA or DACA should act quickly. Many advocates are also urging immigrants to take advantage of DAPA and DACA, because the more immigrants who use the executive actions the harder it will be for Congress to effectively end DAPA and DACA.

Immigrants in New York looking to explore deferred action should contact Polizzotto & Polizzotto, LLC, to understand their rights and options under this new and exciting opportunity for many immigrant families.

Keywords: Immigration, work permit, legal status, DAPA, DACA, deferred action, removal, lawful permanent resident, child immigrant, immigration reform.