Last night, President Obama announced a series of reforms to U.S. immigration policy, which are to be effectuated through executive action, memoranda and/or formal notice-and-comment rule-making. Perhaps the most significant of these is the quasi-legalization of an estimated 4-5 million immigrants currently in the United States without lawful status. However, there are also provisions that will affect non-immigrant visas and lawful employment-based immigration. All of these provisions will take some time to come into force, so stay tuned.
The following is a brief synopsis:
1) Deferred Action for Parents - parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children in the United States without lawful status will be placed in a program to defer their deportation and issue them interim work authorization.
2) Business Immigration Improvements - dependents of H-1Bs in H-4 status will be able to procure work authorization (once the regulations are effective) and measures to improve investor access to the US will be pursued. A number of areas in the law that are currently unclear will be clarified (e.g., L-1B definitions, AC-21 extension definitions) and STEM OPT extensions may be lengthened.
3) Employment-Based Green Card Backlog - it sounds like there will be a provision to allow for filing of adjustment of status applications before eligibility to adjust begins. The benefit to these applicants would be increased job portability.
4) Enforcement Measures - a variety of measures will be enacted to ensure criminals illegally in the United States will be apprehended and deported, both on the federal and state/local level.
5) Visa Numbers - the quota system will be reviewed and modified to ensure unused numbers are recaptured and the system is being run properly.
6) Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - the already existing program will be expanded to change age limits and date of entry requirements.
Once these reforms are fully fleshed out, more information will be provided.