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Yesterday, November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions that may have far-reaching implications in the field of immigration.

 Some of the changes may provide increased options for U.S. businesses to hire and retain highly skilled foreign-born workers. For example, businesses may be able to access the skills of foreign students and graduates of U.S. universities, particularly those studying in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, through the expansion of the existing optional practical training (OPT) program. In addition, the executive action may increase flexibility to change job positions or receive promotions for foreign workers with an approved immigrant worker petition while waiting for a visa to become available under the annual immigration quota. The executive action also may reduce the backlog for employment-based immigrant visas by improving the system for allocating them.

 Foreign inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers may have a new path to permanent resident alien status without being sponsored by an employer if their admission to the United States is in the national interest. In addition, new guidance providing standards for adjudication of petitions for L-1B specialized knowledge workers is expected.

 In addition, certain undocumented immigrants present in the United States may be eligible to avoid removal and obtain employment authorization if they have U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members, pay taxes and pass a criminal background check.

 These are only some of the more significant changes that will be implemented in the coming months. At this time, the agencies that are responsible for implementing these executive actions are working to provide guidance that will clarify the standards and procedures applicable to these programs. This information only a broad summary of a policy announcement and should not be considered to be legal advice for any specific individual or situation. Questions concerning these new immigration initiatives may be directed to our office. We will be available to discuss these changes and will provide more information as details become available.

Dunbar Harder, PLLC
One Riverway, Suite 1800
Houston, Texas 77056