United States: President Obama Announces Executive Actions On Immigration

The actions will prioritize immigration enforcement, offer temporary work authorization to undocumented immigrants, and implement changes that benefit highly skilled workers.

On November 20, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a series of executive actions that the administration will implement to enhance immigration enforcement, offer temporary work authorization and a reprieve from deportation to thousands of undocumented immigrants, and implement certain other administrative fixes to the legal immigration system, several of which benefit highly skilled workers. It is important to understand that the details regarding many of these actions will not be known until the agencies in charge of implementation issue policy guidelines and proposed regulations. The Department of Homeland Security will begin to implement these actions in early 2015.

The following outlines the main actions that President Obama announced.

Enforcement and Worksite Enforcement

  • The president has outlined three main priorities with respect to immigration enforcement. This means that the administration will direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to concentrate primarily on these groups in the context of targeted removal efforts:
    • Suspected terrorists, convicted felons (including aggravated felonies), convicted gang members, and people apprehended on the border
    • People convicted of serious or multiple misdemeanors, and very recent entrants (i.e., those who entered after January 1, 2014)
    • Those who, after January 1, 2014, failed to leave under a removal order or returned after removal
  • The federal and local law enforcement partnership on immigration enforcement known as Secure Communities will be discontinued, and a new program called the Priority Enforcement Program will be introduced, presumably reflecting the immigration enforcement priorities outlined above.
  • An interagency working group will be created to handle certain worksite immigration compliance and enforcement matters. This group will include ICE, the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (an office within the Department of Justice). This may well expand the nature and scope of the worksite investigations to which employers may be subject.

Work Authorization and Deferral of Deportation for Certain Undocumented Immigrants

  • Certain undocumented immigrants will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization if they come forward and pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their taxes, and pay a fee. This program will likely affect 4 to 5 million people. Those who qualify for this temporary relief include the following:
    • Parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents on the date of the announcement who are not enforcement priorities (as described above) and have been in the United States since January 1, 2010.
    • Individuals who arrived in the United States before turning 16 years old and before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today. This, in effect, would lift the current age cap in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
  • It is anticipated that the Department of Homeland Security, or the interagency group mentioned above that will deal with worksite immigration compliance, will issue instructions to employers regarding the employment eligibility verification of individuals who have received work permits under this special deferred action program.

Administrative Improvements in Business Immigration

  • The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have been instructed to allocate immigrant visas in the employment and family-based preference categories so that all immigrant visas allocated by Congress are used in the fiscal year in which they are authorized. In addition, the Department of State will modify the way in which it makes immigrant visas available during a fiscal year. USCIS has been directed to work with the Department of State in this effort, and it is possible that a procedure will be proposed that allows for early eligibility of employment-sponsored green card applicants for filing applications for adjustment of status, the final stage in the green card process.
  • USCIS will propose a final rule that allows for work authorization for spouses of H-1B workers. It is unclear whether this will be limited to H-1B workers who are in certain stages of the green card process or applicable to a broader group of H-1B workers.
  • USCIS will finalize a long-awaited memorandum that provides guidance on the definition of "specialized knowledge" for the adjudication of L-1B intracompany transfer visas.
  • USCIS will expand the degree programs eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization. Specifically, USCIS plans to propose that foreign students who possess an initial baccalaureate degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field and who are in the United States pursuing a degree in a different field, such as a Master of Business Administration, will be eligible for the STEM extension of OPT. USCIS also plans to extend the duration of OPT granted to students and graduates.
  • USCIS plans to provide more "stability" to beneficiaries of employment-based immigrant petitions by ensuring that such petitions remain valid despite changes in jobs or employers, including clarification of the "same or similar occupational classification" standard for adjustment portability determinations.
  • USCIS has been instructed to issue guidance that encourages the greater use of the National Interest Waiver green card category to accommodate entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, and founders of companies. It is anticipated that the guidance will broaden the use of the category not only for self-employed entrepreneurs but also for established companies that sponsor key foreign employees involved in innovation, job creation, and other prospective benefits to the economy.
  • A "parole" and "parole-in-place" program will be created to allow certain entrepreneurs to remain in the United States when they have attracted funding for certain enterprises.
  • The Department of Labor has been instructed to issue regulations that streamline the Program Electronic Review Management labor certification program and to put this project on a fast track.

As discussed above, we will learn more details regarding these proposals when the agencies charged with implementation begin publishing proposed regulations and policies. There is a great deal of misinformation circulating, in particular, through various social media outlets, with respect to how these changes will operate and when they will become effective. Prior to taking any actions based on these executive actions, we urge clients and their employees to verify the information they receive and ensure it is reliable. We will monitor these developments and alert our clients as new details emerge.

This article is provided as a general informational service and it should not be construed as imparting legal advice on any specific matter.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.