Without a doubt, the hottest topic on our firm’s discussion forum (www.immigration-information.com) has been the subject of possible immigration relief through administrative action. Originally, the President promised to enact such relief “before the end of summer.” Then, for political reasons, he backed off and now says that he will announce it “before the holidays are over.”
There are multiple aspects to administrative relief. Some things can be done by changes in administrative regulations. Others can be done through simple changes in policy, while some will require an executive order, signed by the President.
The most controversial proposals involve illegal immigrants. There are, however, a number of proposals that will benefit employment-based immigrants, if adopted.
The administration has already published a proposed regulatory change to give work authorization to certain H-4 spouses. As proposed, eligibility would be limited to spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who have received extensions beyond six years. The employment authorization grant would be unlimited, meaning that the H-4 spouse could work for anyone, doing anything – full or part time. The final rule could be promulgated as early as the end of this month, though it will likely take longer.
The most beneficial proposal, for employment based immigrants, is the notion of reinterpreting the quota statute so that it only applies to principal applicants and not their dependents. Charles Oppenheim of the State Department’s Visa Office has speculated that if this happens, all EB quotas would become “current” immediately, and remain that way for several years at least. This provision was part of Senate bill 744, passed by the Senate last year with a 68-32 vote.
The administration is also said to be considering deportation relief for approximately 5.2 million individuals who are here illegally. Eligibility would be based on whether the individual has children (irrespective of their place of birth) in the United States. This would be similar to the DACA program announced in 2012.
Qualifying individuals would have to apply to the immigration service for inclusion in the program. If eligible, they would be given permission to remain in the U.S., unrestricted work authorization, and even permission to travel abroad and return.
The likely window for announcement of administrative relief, if any, will be between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
James R. Gotcher | Attorney