President Obama's recently announced an immigration policy that will stop deportation of many undocumented young people. This policy, known as “deferred action,” paves the way to get work cards and social security numbers that will allow them to work legally. Deferred action, also known as prosecutorial discretion, is not new. It has been a routine part of immigration law since 1971, allowing the president to stop, suspend, or temporarily exempt individuals from deportation for different reasons. For many, this procedure may the only way to get a work permit and live legally in the U.S., albeit temporary.
To qualify under the president's current policy announcement, the applicant must:
- Be between the age 15-30 years old,
- Have moved to the U.S. before age 16,
- Have been present continuously in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012,
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or multiple minor misdemeanors, and
- Be in school or military service, graduated from high school or have a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military.
If you meet the requirements, here are 6 important facts you should know before you apply:
- It is not “amnesty” and does not lead to permanent residence (green card) or citizenship. It is temporary two-year status that can be renewed indefinitely. However, renewal is not guaranteed.
- It does protect you from deportation (“removal”) unless you commit a felony or multiple misdemeanors even if you are considered a juvenile under the criminal justice system.
- Unlike permanent residence, citizen, or even a visa, deferred action is not an immigration status. If your initial application or renewal request is denied, you can be deported.
- If you leave the U.S. for any reason, your deferred action is voided and you may be barred from returning to the U.S.
- You must prove that you qualify for deferred action so you will need to provide school records, criminal records, military records, residence records, and other relevant records.
- Deferred action is considered on a individual basis and does not protect non-qualifying family members.
Work authorization and temporary safety from deportation are very attractive benefits to deferred action. However, if you are not currently in deportation proceedings, it's important to talk to a qualified immigration attorney to see if the reward of deferred action outweighs the risks. The attorney will ask you the key questions about your background to determine if deferred action is right for you and help you to present your best case to the government.