Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Obama's executive action

Published:Tuesday | December 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I listened to President Barack Obama make an immigration announcement (recently), and I am still not sure if I qualify for residency. Can I travel while my green card is being processed?

- Unsure

Dear Unsure,

What Obama did on November 20, 2014, was to announce his plans for an executive order, making changes to the implementation of United States (US) immigration laws. He signed the order on November 21, 2014. His executive order does not give legal residency (green card) to anyone.

There are several features to the executive order, but I will highlight only three today.

1. Deferred Action for Parents (DAP)

If you have been in the States illegally - entered illegally or came legally and your time to stay has expired - and you are the parent of an American citizen or green card holder, and you have been in the US prior to January 1, 2010, you will be able to apply for temporary status that will include a work permit and protection from deportation.

You will have to pass a background check. If you have been convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanour, or multiple misdemeanours, you will not qualify for this programme. You will also be required to pay back taxes.

Persons in this category will have to show that they have lived in the US continuously since January 1, 2010; prove their identity and their relationship to their American citizen or permanent resident son or daughter. If you think you qualify for this temporary relief, begin to ensure that your passport is up to date and that you have a new version of the Jamaican birth certificate (computer generated); gather documents to prove that you have been living in the US since January 1, 2014; and sort out your income tax liability. This action is estimated to be implemented in 180 days.

2. Extension of Deferred Action for Children (DACA)

The president's executive order removes the age limit for which a person can apply for this relief. You must have entered the US at age 16, before January 1, 2010 (was previously June, 2007) and be any age at this time in order to apply (was previously 31 years old). Additionally, the period of deferred action will be increased from two to three years. These changes are estimated to be in effect in 90 days.

3. Expansion of I-601A Provisional Waiver

In 2013, a provisional waiver was implemented that allowed immediate relatives (spouses and minor children in this case) of American citizens who could not adjust in the US and were required to return to their home country (at times triggering a mandatory three-year or 10-year bar to returning to the US and requiring a hardship waiver) to be able to apply for the hardship waiver while in the US. The president's action now expands those who can apply for the provisional waiver to include the spouses, sons, or daughters of green card holders, and sons and daughters of US citizens. This section of the order is also expected to clarify hardship and the qualifying relative.

It is important to note that no applications for any of these reliefs are currently being accepted by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Now is the time to prepare, not apply, and be very careful of unlicensed persons who will seek to take advantage of this announcement and historically lead unsuspecting persons to believe that only they can apply for the benefit on your behalf and that they can expedite the process. No details of how the executive order will be implemented have been issued, and the ability to travel during this deferred status has not yet been addressed.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice. info@walkerhuntington.com.