In his speech to the nation on November 20, President Obama announced a number of initiatives that will significantly change the immigration process. The following is a summary of initiatives that will impact the business community.
• Adjustment of Status Applications Can Be Filed Earlier: The President addressed the employment-based green card backlog. The changes that he proposed will allow adjustment of status applications to be filed earlier. Principal applicants and dependent family members can now obtain employment authorization and advance parole sooner.
• H-4 Spousal Employment: The President declared that H1B spouses will be able to apply for work permits and receive Employment Authorization Documents. This initiative is expected to be finalized within the next two months.
• STEM OPT Expansion: F-1 students pursuing studies in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) will have more opportunities for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of studies. These changes would also require students to keep ties to their schools after graduation.
• L-1B Specialized Knowledge Clarification: The President will finalize a new policy memorandum that will clarify what qualifies as “specialized knowledge” for the L-1B classification. This should result in more reasonable adjudications for these petitions.
• Facilitation of Entry for Entrepreneurs: This initiative will provide parole for entrepreneurs coming to the United States. The Administration is also working to expand the national interest waiver to include entrepreneurs.
• Deferred Deportation for Parents of U.S. Citizens: The President stated that he would defer the deportation of parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. They would also be eligible for employment authorization.
• The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Program: The President also announced the expansion to the DACA program to include individuals brought to this country as children if they entered before January 1, 2010.
• Provisional Extreme Hardship Waivers: The provisional extreme hardship waiver process will expand to allow spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens to substantially complete the waiver process before leaving the United States.
We understand that the details and timelines for these initiatives are currently being established, and we expect the details to be disclosed in the near future.