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The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions announced last month contained a raft of measures principally aimed towards providing relief for individuals in the United States who are out of status. The Executive Action also included some measures that the President felt would help legal immigrants and students in Science and Technology programs.

The President’s actions created a firestorm of political reaction – from those who deemed the Presidential Action as unconstitutional to those who felt that the President had not done enough. In fact 24 Attorneys General have filed a complaint, in a case which could wind its way to the Supreme Court and have wide ranging impact on the exercise of Executive Authority.

For legal immigrants or those in legal status in the United States the Presidential Action provided some notable relief in the form of a directive to the Department of Homeland Security to change current procedures so that some high-skilled immigrants and their spouses are able to change jobs; increasing immigration opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs and creating further opportunities for students in STEM programs in U.S. Colleges.

In the coming months there will be further guidance released by the relevant government agencies on how the Presidential directives will be implemented. There will also be further clarity on whether the Presidential Action will be able to stand the political and judicial scrutiny. It may be noted that recent Senate Action on the budget precluded a de-funding of government agencies as a retaliation for the Presidential decision. This may be an indication that the Presidential Action may be too politically toxic to be undone.

The highlights of the Presidential Executive Action are:

  • Measures for Aliens Without Documentation who have a Legal Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen child and expansion of the DREAMer program: The major thrust of the President’s action involved providing relief for undocumented or illegal aliens residing in the United States for at least 5 years and who have a U.S. Citizen child or a child with a Legal Permanent Residence. These immigrants will be provided relief on a case by case basis. The DREAMer program will also be expanded to allow those who were under 16 at the time of their entry into the United States and will have to have been here on or before January 1, 2010.
  • Portable Work Authorizations for High Skilled Workers Awaiting Permanent Residence (Green-cards): For those awaiting employment based permanent residence, Employment Authorizations will be issued that would allow portability. Opportunities for their spouses to avail themselves of Work Authorizations will also be introduced.
  • Enhanced Measures and Opportunities for Foreign Entrepreneurs: New measures and options will be introduced for Entrepreneurs who “will provide a significant public benefit by creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the United States.”
  • Measures for students in STEM programs in U.S. Universities: Additional administrative measures to be introduced for foreign students graduating or enrolled in STEM degree studies through the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.
  • Relief from Re-Entry Ban for Persons Awaiting Green Cards: Individuals who face a ban on Re-Entry will be “to apply for a provisional waiver of certain restrictions before they depart the United States to attend visa interviews at U.S. consulates abroad.”

Our advice to clients impacted by the Presidential Action is to await further guidance and clarification. The Presidential Action is unprecedented. However these measures may prove to become extremely difficult for future administrations and the Congress to roll back.

Please contact USILaw should you have any questions or need clarification. You can reach us via email at and via telephone at (202) 618 4540.

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