Today is the day that many young undocumented immigrants in South Carolina and the rest of the nation have been waiting for. Today -- Aug. 15, 2012 -- the Department of Homeland Security began accepting applications for its program that grants work permits to young immigrants who are in the country illegally and meet certain qualifications.
The program has been described as one of the biggest policy changes to the United States immigration system in decades. Essentially, as many as 1.7 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children could now have the ability to live and work in the United States without having the constant fear of deportation.
The program involves applying for a "deferred action" permit that would protect holders from deportation for at least two years. There will be no limit on the number of times immigrants can re-apply for the work permits. However, the Obama Administration has made clear that the permits do not provide a pathway to United States citizenship.
The DHS released the applications online on Tuesday, and many young immigrants wanting to apply began lining up at their native countries' embassies and consulates to get passports and other documentation earlier this week. Workshops have been set up across the country for immigrants who want help applying for the permits. People wanting to apply are being told to "over-prepare" by advocates.
What to know if you plan on applying for a "deferred action" permit:
- Applicants must be ages 15 to 31.
- Applicants must have arrived in the country before they were 16.
- Applicants must have lived in the United States continuously for at least the past five years.
- Applicants must be free of serious criminal convictions, be enrolled in or have completed high school, a GED program or have served in the U.S. military.
- There is a $465 application fee (which can be waived for qualifying low-income individuals).
- Documents such as school records, utility bills and passports may be needed.
- There are a few other restrictions to be aware of.
Check back later this week for more information on this important immigration policy change.
Source: Washington Post, "Young illegal immigrants begin applying for relief from deportation," Steve Hendrix, Aug. 15, 2012