Expanded Deferred Action and what it means to you

obama immigration reform Obama’s administration may be expanding the deferred action program, also known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, to more individuals and parents of US citizens and permanent residents. This program, however, does not provide a path to citizenship and is not guaranteed. Nevertheless, you might be interested in understanding what the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is and how you might be able to participate.

The program is intended for illegal immigrants (people who are in America without any visas or status) who came when they were a child and stayed in America since. If you came here legally when you were an adult and overstayed your visa, this is not for you. If you are looking to come to America, this is not for you. This is for a very specific group of people who came to America as a child through illegal methods and are in America without any documentation or status. Currently, the program is only for people who are:

  • At least 15 years old
  • Have resided in America continuously since June 15, 2007
  • Are under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012
  • Came to America before 16 years old
  • Have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military
  • Not convicted of any crimes such as felony, more than 3 misdemeanors or significant misdemeanors. 

If all of the above conditions apply to you, it must be all, then you can submit the following forms to USCIS for consideration of the deferred action.

  • I-821D Application for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival
  • I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
  • I-765WS Worksheet for Application for Employment Authorization
  • Application fee: $465 ($380 processing fee plus $85 biometrics fee)

The following is a list of possible supporting documents that you can use to help get accepted into the program.

Proof of Identity:

  • Passport or national identity document from your country of origin.
  • Birth certificate with photo identification.
  • School or military identification with photo.
  • Any U.S. government immigration document or other document bearing your name and photo.

Proof you came to the U.S. before your 16th birthday:

  • Passport with admission stamp.
  • Form I-94/I-95/I-94W.
  • School records from the U.S. schools you have attended.
  • Any Immigration and Naturalization Services or DHS document stating your date of entry [Form I-862, Notice to Appear].
  • Travel records.
  • Hospital or medical records.

Proof of immigration status:

  • Form I-94/I-95/I-94W with authorized stay expiration date.
  • Final order of exclusion, deportation, or removal issued as of June 15, 2012.
  • A charging documentation placing you into removal proceedings.

Proof you continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007:

  • Employment records. (Pay stubs, W-2 Forms, etc.)
  • School records (letters, report cards, etc.)
  • Military records (Form DD-214 or NGB Form 22)
  • Official records from a religious entity confirming participation in a religious ceremony
  • Birth Certificate of U.S.C. children
  • Deeds, mortgages, rental agreement contracts

Proof of your Student Status at the time of Requesting Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals:

  • School records (transcripts, report cards, etc.) from the school that you are currently attending in the United States showing the name(s) of the school(s) and periods of school attendance and the current educational or grade level
  • U.S. High School Diploma or Certificate of Completion
  • U.S. GED Certificate

The only benefit of the deferred action program is to get fully legal work authorization so that you can begin working in America. If you attended college, you can use this to get jobs in companies and hopefully the law will expand that you can apply for H-1B visas or even green cards through your job. This is not possible at the time of writing but it may change. The other “benefit” is the actual deferred action, meaning that you will not be deported for at least 2 years. After 2 years, the law may change and you might still be deported.

In 2014, Obama is expected to announce expansions of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to allow more people to apply. This includes:

  • Changing the date of initial entry from June 2007 to June 2010. This means that anyone who came in before June 2010 will be able to apply. So before this expansion, if you came into America in 2008 or 2009, you would not qualify. 
  • Allowing parents of US citizens or permanent residents to be in deferred action. This means that those people who are in America illegally but have children who have legal status (such as parents who came to America illegally and had a child born in America) and also be considered for deferred action. These parents will be eligible for work authorization and also would not be deported for at least 2 years.

There are strong Republican oppositions to this expansion and laws can change at any time. For the most updated situations and immigration policies, always check the DHS/USCIS website for information. Good Luck!

Travel Rules for Green Card Holders – How Long Can you Stay out of America

Sunset Travelling

Maintaining your green card is pretty straight forward if you truly want to live and work in America permanently and have made a choice to become American and not go back to your home country. However, there are people who simply cannot disconnect from their birth country and culture and find themselves thinking immigrating was a mistake. It could be due to family, money or simply the goods and services that are available in their home country that are difficult or expensive to get in America. Often, after spending thousands of dollars to get the green card, they move back home or take extended vacation in their home country. Rather than giving up on the green card, these permanent residents know that US citizenship is a mere 5 year away (3 for people who married a US citizen). Instead of letting USCIS know that they intend on residing in their home country, they try to come back to America every few months to “maintain” their permanent residency. This simply does not work. Upon return, these green card holders will get detained at the airport, questioned for hours why they spent so much time abroad and often given a choice to renounce the green card or face more questioning and USCIS procedures. This post is to help guide permanent residents on how long they can actually go back to their home country and still return without any problems at the USCIS Custom and Border Protection checkpoint.

On the USCIS website for maintaining permanent residency, it clearly says that any length of time outside the USA can be used as evidence that the green card holder intends on abandoning their green card:

You may be found to have abandoned your permanent resident status if you:

  • Remain outside of the United States for more than 1 year without obtaining a reentry permit or returning resident visa. However, in determining whether your status has been abandoned, any length of absence from the United States may be considered, even if less than 1 year
  • Remain outside of the United States for more than 2 years after issuance of a reentry permit without obtaining a returning resident visa. However, in determining whether your status has been abandoned any length of absence from the United States may be considered, even if less than 1 year

Any absence from America for more than 1 year without a Re-Entry permit that you have applied BEFORE leaving America will automatically make your green card invalid. There is a rumor that you may have heard from friends or family that as long as you return every 12 months, you can “revalidate” your green card and stay in active status. This is absolutely FALSE! In fact, if you go back to your home country and only come back to America for a month every 1 year, USCIS will have a record of this pattern and will detain you at the airport to ask you to surrender your green card. Same goes with a pattern of coming back to America every 3,4,5 months in an attempt to show you still want your green card. Normal US permanent residents are likely to be residing in America for most of the year. Only celebrities or international businessmen would travel that way. Therefore, the bottom line is that there is no safe or guaranteed amount of time that you can spend in your home country and still be able to come back with a valid green card without any issues at the airport. The best way to maintain green card status is to simply live in America for most of the year and take 1-2 months trips abroad to your home country. Any other methods will simply flag your green card and potentially cause you to lose your permanent residency.

However, the USCIS knows that there are times due to family issues such as a family member being very ill or at the last stages of their lives and the green card holder wants to spend as much time as possible with them before they die. In this kind of circumstances, before leaving America, the green card holder must file an I-131 Re-Entry permit. You should apply for the re-entry permit if you intend on leaving America for more than 3 months. The re-entry permit is usually approved for 2 years. The permit is easy to apply and you must supply a very valid reason why you need this permit. Also you should prepare evidence that you still do intent on residing in America permanently by demonstrating your ties to America. The following documents are some examples of what you should include with your I-131 application:

  • Home purchase in America
  • Car purchase in America
  • Bank account in America
  • Insurance accounts in America
  • Tax returns in America
  • Maintained an active driver’s license in America
  • Storage rentals in America
  • Own a business in America
  • Will attend school upon return in America

Remember, you must wait until you get an approved re-entry permit before you leave the country. If you leave America before getting your approved re-entry permit, then the I-131 is considered abandoned and you will likely be detained at the airport upon your return!

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Another more unfortunate situation is that the US green card holder had no time to file for a re-entry permit and left America. In this case, you need to apply for a SB-1 Retuning Resident Visa at the local US embassy or consulate. The Consular Officers will make a determination on your case and see if you could not have time to file for a re-entry permit and the situation is beyond your control. If you can demonstrate to the Consular Officers that you have every intention of returning to America permanently, they will reinstate your green card and allow you to return. Keep in mind this is a very last resort option. Consular Officers are not likely to reinstate your green card easily if your situation was not extreme.

The takeaway for this post is that don’t try to think you can get away with living in your home country while maintaining your green card. The USCIS CBP has every record of your departure and days spent outside America. They know exactly when you entered and left the country. If you are trying to sneakily maintain your green card while you have no intensions of residing in America permanently, you will probably lose your green card. You spent thousands of dollars and a lot of time and effort in getting the green card, use it correctly, stay in America permanently. In cases where you do have to be aboard for more than 3 months, make sure you file your I-131 re-entry permit before leaving. It will help you maintain your green card and assure no hassles upon your return.