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Business Immigration Now: President Obama Announces Immigration Reform Actions with Direct Impact on Workforce

November 20, 2014

President Obama outlined Thursday evening his plan to allow certain undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, bolster border security, and make it easier for highly skilled workers and graduates to stay in the country. The plan will allow upwards of four million illegal immigrants the chance to apply for temporary relief from deportation. People who have been in the United States for at least five years and are parents of United States citizens or legal permanent residents would be eligible to apply. These individuals will be required to register, pass background checks and pay taxes to work legally in the United States for three years at a time.

With respect to work visas, the White House announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will provide additional guidance on L-1 intra-company transferee visas. The President will issue a memorandum directing various immigration agencies to modernize the visa system and reduce burdens on employers.  Further, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would streamline the process for highly skilled works to obtain visas, stating that it had asked the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State to work together to improve the visa process. The President’s immigration reform plan would also apply to agricultural workers.

The President’s plan also includes increasing resources to law enforcement at the US-Mexico border to increase the likelihood of apprehending illegal crossers, and taking action to make it easier for highly skilled immigrants and graduates to stay in the country.

In a press release issued by the White House, the Obama administration stated it would expand eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, allowing certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to apply for two-year deferred deportation and work permits. The age limits for DACA will be removed and the program will be extended to three years.