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Deferred action program for young immigrants opens today

Today marks the time when qualifying undocumented immigrants in North Carolina can begin to apply for a deferred action program announced by President Obama in June. For those who meet eligibility requirements, the plan promises a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation and provides illegal immigrants with work permits.

The program is open to younger illegal immigrants who had not reached the age of 31 by June 15 of this year and who had arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 years old. There are a number of other criteria as well. Applicants must be presently attending school, have earned their high school diploma or GED, or have received an honorable discharge after service in our nation's military.

In addition, certain criminal convictions will disqualify immigrants from the program. Applicants must not have three or more misdemeanor convictions, a significant misdemeanor, or a felony conviction on their records. Lastly, there are residency requirements. Immigrants must have been in the U.S. for the last five consecutive years, must have been in the country on June 15 of this year and must be here when they send in their application.

There are some concerns about the costs of this program. The government has instituted a $465 fee to defray the costs of processing the applications. In a narrow range of circumstances, however, immigrants who have trouble paying that amount can receive a fee waiver.

Although the program has generated excitement among immigrants, some advocates and immigration lawyers have urged caution. The future of the program may depend on the results of this fall's presidential election, and some are worried that if the program is discontinued, some illegal immigrants who apply could end up facing deportation later. Whether to apply now is a personal decision that should be made after weighing one's legal options carefully.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, "Immigration official brace for wave of applications," Brian Bennett, Aug. 14, 2012.

• While the program offers many benefits, it is important to note that it does not offer a path to U.S. citizenship. If you would like more information on our firm, please visit our Greensboro family immigration page.

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