Who will get to stay?
Obama’s executive action will not automatically grant legal status or work authorization to anyone. However, an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants may be eligible to obtain legal status if they have no criminal history, pay taxes, pay an application fee and can navigate an application process that could open as soon as early 2015. So who is eligible to apply, and what are they eligible for?
DREAMers of any age
Obama extended eligibility for temporary legal status and work authorization to approximately 300,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. with their undocumented parents before 2010 when they were under the age of 16. That's similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, except it would extend the age limit so that 31-year-olds who came here when they were 5 years old, for example, may now be eligible for temporary legal status. Their undocumented parents, however, would not be eligible. None of these groups will be able to access a pathway to citizenship or benefits like Medicaid, Medicare or federal health insurance subsidies.
Parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders
Nearly 4 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders who have been living here for five years (since before Jan. 1, 2010) may also be eligible for temporary legal status and work authorization for three years. Like DREAMers, family members of U.S. citizens would only be eligible for temporary legal status — not a pathway to citizenship or benefits like Medicaid, Medicare or federal health insurance subsidies.
For the temporarily documented: Spouses of H-1B visa holders
Spouses of temporarily employed U.S. workers with H-1B visas, which are given to specialty, tech-field workers, were made eligible to apply for a visa to work in the states alongside their partner. Before, those spouses were eligible for a H-4 visa, but weren't allowed to work. There will be no quota on spouses' visas.
For students and workers in STEM
Some foreign students pursuing fields in science, technology, engineering and math are now eligible for an F1 visa extension. High-tech workers can now change their visas so that they aren't anchored to one employer.
So what about the remaining 6 million undocumented immigrants?
Anyone who doesn't fit the previous categories will remain undocumented. However, Obama said that law enforcement will shift focus to undocumented persons who have been here for less than five years, as well as people who have committed violent crimes, and away from families who have quietly been living their lives.