Deferred Action program results in longer wait times for family green cards

A controversial new U.S. immigration program is receiving high praise in some circles and harsh criticism in others. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was implemented in 2012, has offered thousands of young immigrants a way to avoid deportation and receive employment authorization. Unfortunately, while the program has been applauded by many immigrant rights groups, others say the Deferred Action program has unfairly diverted resources and increased processing times for those attempting to immigrate to the U.S. through other avenues.

New program protects young people from deportation

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program offers employment authorization and deportation protection for certain young immigrants who were brought into the United States as minors. The program is open to applicants who came to the U.S. before age 16 and meet a number of other eligibility requirements. While Deferred Action does not provide a path to citizenship or permanent resident status, it allows eligible applicants to avoid deportation for up to two years at a time, and to renew their deferrals indefinitely.

President Obama announced the Deferred Action program in 2012 and ordered that it be implemented within just two months. Consequently, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service had to work quickly to put the program in place, and was soon met with a tidal wave of applicants. As a result of the program's abrupt implementation and immediate popularity, fewer USCIS resources have been available to process green card applications for family members of U.S. citizens.

Family immigration visas

U.S. citizens with certain relatives living abroad - most often a spouse, child or parent - can apply for an immigrant visa or green card on behalf of those family members. In comparison to many other immigration processes, such as seeking asylum or applying for an employment-based visa, family immigration is generally considered to be more straightforward. Even so, however, it is still a lengthy and complex process.

Before the introduction of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the processing time for a family immigrant visa was typically about five months, according to a New York Times report. In 2013, however, as the USCIS struggled to keep up with applications for the Deferred Action program, family green card processing slowed to an average of about 15 months. While green card wait times have declined somewhat since their peak, the agency says the delays are likely to continue through much of 2014.

In many cases, working with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer can help minimize delays and improve the likelihood of a favorable ruling in an immigration proceeding. If you or a loved one has questions about issues relating to immigration, consider speaking with an experienced immigration lawyer in your area.