By Attorneys Devin M. Connolly & Nancy E. Miller

The year 2015 is upon us and it is time to look forward and make plans for the upcoming year.  Will 2015 be the year you resolve your immigration problems?  Will 2015 be the year you consult an experienced and knowledgeable immigration firm about your immigration rights in the U.S.?

The future for immigrants in the U.S. is full of hope.  Obtaining work authorization, permanent resident status, or even becoming a U.S. citizen is a distinct possibility for many people.  However, too many people are afraid to confront their immigration problems and seek help.  Many of these people mistakenly believe that their case is hopeless because they overstayed their allowable time in the U.S., or because they entered the U.S. under an assumed name.  Other people do not understand that being brought to the U.S. at a young age may help them, or that having U.S. citizen or permanent resident children may help them obtain work authorization and other immigration benefits.  Regardless of a person’s individual circumstances, what everybody has in common is that they have created a life for themselves in the U.S. and they want to continue that life.

However, since problems do not resolve themselves, continuing to live in the U.S. may only be possible if you confront your immigration problem.  The first step is to consult a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney.

A good immigration lawyer will be able to tell the non-citizen what options are available to them.  Relief is available for many immigration problems.  In fact, thanks to certain changes in 2014, more help is available now than has been in many years.

The biggest development in 2014 was President Obama announcing his implementation of a policy to provide temporary relief to millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  One major component of President Obama’s plan is the creation of Deferred Action for Parents (DAPA).   DAPA will allow certain parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents to apply for deferred action (protection against removal).  To be eligible, an applicant must have continuous presence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, must have a child who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, pass necessary background checks, etc.  If eligible, an applicant would be able to remain in the United States without fear of removal for three years.  They would also receive authorization to work.  With that authorization, of course, comes social security cards and driver’s licenses.

The possibility of applying for DAPA is especially important to individuals who are presently in Immigration Court and are facing imminent deportation.  These individuals may qualify to have their cases closed, which would allow them to remain in the U.S. with their family.

A second major component of President Obama’s executive order was an expansion of the previously-created program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  DACA is targeted to young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents before they turned 16-years-old.  Persons qualifying for DACA will be entitled to deferred action and work authorization.   DACA is now available to more people than ever because an applicant is no longer required to have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 and need only show continuous presence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.   A grant of DACA will also now be effective for three years instead of two.

The policy changes protect against removal but do not lead to permanent lawful status but many other existing forms of relief do. For instance, non-citizens who entered the United States by means of a misrepresentation may be eligible for a waiver of that misrepresentation if they have a parent or spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The non-citizen must show that their parent and/or spouse will suffer “extreme hardship” if the non-citizen is forced to return to their home country.

Non-citizens who have criminal convictions may be able to obtain or keep their green cards if they have a parent, spouse, or son or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who will suffer the requisite hardship if they have to leave.

Waivers for some grounds of removal are available if the immigrant if they can show that they have more favorable than unfavorable facts in their case.

Hopefully 2015 will bring far reaching beneficial changes for immigrants.  But remember that a person will not receive any benefits unless they apply for them, and they cannot apply for them unless they know they exist.  Consulting with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney will give a prospective immigrant the information they need to keep their resolution to resolve their immigration problems in 2015.

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