How to exploit waivers for ineligibility situations?

If you are depressed that you maybe ineligible for adjusting your status to RPI because you came after the cutoff date or lack the evidence to demonstrate continuous presence or you have way too many felonies or misdemeanor convictions or you used fake papers to enter the United States or you ended up making a false claim to American citizenship.  Don't just self deport because there is hope, through a sleepy provision in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM).  In the law there are loopholes that are designed to help undocumented aliens who are not technically ineligible but still will be able to legalize.  

How does this work?  The law gives the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security the power to declare that one or even all the requirements of eligibility be waived on a case by case basis.  These are waivers not just for deported aliens to return if they have family members in the United States but waivers related to almost all the requirements including dates or lack of evidence or criminal convictions.  What you will require is an excellent immigration lawyer because based on your situation, a compelling case will need to be developed playing on family ties or persecution overseas (hey, that is how the Boston terrorists got American citizenship) or religious freedom (these are cases that win almost every time particularly if you cook up a story about being a Christian who will not be able to practice the faith elsewhere). The law permits the DHS Secretary to approve these waivers without any objections from anyone -- and who will be watching?  The politicians in Washington will move on to the next fight very quickly. 


Undocumented aliens will do just fine even after CIR is law:  Another hope for you is that you maybe able to live and work like the past because American employers are addicted to cheap labor.  The US economy cannot function if the wages go up and businesses will go bankrupt if they were to hire people on market wages because their business model is built around exploitation of unauthorized workers.  Most experts expect that as soon as their employees become legal they will be fired because even if these folks do not demand higher wages and/or benefits, the employer will need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes (FICA), for which they simply do not have room in their cost structure.  Almost immediately, these employers will be lining up to find new unauthorized workers.  The truth is that eVerify or whatever else the politicians talk about are nothing but buzzwords because the US Government, Democrat or Republican, has no desire to control the actions of so-called small business owners and farmers, who have very powerful lobbies.

Blue Card for DREAMers working on farms

There is less talk of DREAMers (an immigrant brought to the United States before 16th birthday) who are farmworkers because they are not out there telling passionate stories of going to college or joining the Military, but it is estimated that at least 40% of DREAMers work on farms.  The great news in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM) is that DREAMers who work on farms but are not eligible to apply as regular DREAMers maybe able to apply as farm workers, and thus, get the so-called Blue Card valid for 8 years, after which if you have worked on a farm for just 100 days each year, you get the green card.  It gets better: after just two years of having the green card, you get to apply for naturalization as a US citizen.


Am I eligible for the Blue Card?  Have you done agriculture work in the US for a minimum of 575 hours or 100 work days (a day is 5.75 hours of work) in at least 2011 and 2012 (if you have more than that, even better)?  That is not a lot of time, some of you who worked on a farm part time maybe eligible to meet this requirement.  Remember, felonies are not acceptable, and since three misdemeanors are allowed, even DUI is fine.  Also, because of a loophole, Congress does not care if you paid income taxes to IRS or not.

How to file a Blue Card application?  You will need the usual documentation, but the most important piece of evidence will be about the time that you have spent working on a farm.  If you do not have enough hours, like the Reagan Amnesty when many farmers were selling fake documents, it will happen again, so discuss this with your attorney.  Apparently, Congress does not seem to care about this because there will be no interviews to confirm if you actually worked on a farm or not.

How much back taxes to get RPI status?

While the Gang of Eight senators keep talking about undocumented immigrants having to pay assessed taxes before getting approved for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status, the great news in the Obama Immigration Reform bill is that most likely you will not need to pay any back taxes.  The reason the politicians are making a big deal about back taxes is that it helps in selling the bill to the American public, but if you read the bill carefully, while there is talk of payment of assessed taxes, the way the law is written, you may not owe even a penny to Uncle Sam.  It would not be surprising that if you have your paperwork in order, United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might even give you a huge refund.

So how come you will not need to pay any taxes?  
  1. If you have filed a tax return, whether using an ITIN or valid Social Security number or even fraudulent SSN (as long as you have a record of it because you cannot get a record from the IRS for a SS# that legally does not belong to you), and if the IRS has never told you that you owe any more taxes, and you have never been audited, you have basically paid all your taxes to the IRS and owe nothing more.
  2. If you have been working illegally and getting paid in cash or personal checks under the table, it means that your employer has not reported your earnings to the IRS.  In other words, for all practical purposes, you might not have worked at all because there is no record of it.  While the law says that you should pay taxes in cases like this, apparently no one can be caught.

  3. To prove your continuous presence requirement, the USCIS will accept W-2 forms and other documents from your employer that you have worked.  Some of these documents may declare your wages.  The great news for you is that the law does not require Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to share this information with the IRS, so as long as IRS specifically does not tell the USCIS that you owe taxes (that can only happen if you got a bill from the IRS and you did not pay it back), the USCIS cannot force you to pay taxes.  Why would this be so?  Well, if the DHS forces you to pay back taxes, it means that your employer who paid you will also owe back taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the business lobby is so powerful, that no politician wants to annoy them.  Telling employers to pay back taxes will be political suicide and that is why US employers are immune from prosecution related to employing unauthorized labor.
  4. If you have been working under fake name(s) and still manage to meet all the requirements of RPI, the USCIS and IRS have no way to find out how much money you made.
  5. The number of job cuts at the IRS have been so severe that it basically has no staff left to enforce US tax laws.  Thanks to Republican policies, the IRS agents are very few in numbers and overworked that the last thing they want to do is to go after undocumented immigrants with incomes mostly below $30,000 a year.
  6. The senators have previously discussed that the cost of developing a system to accurately estimate the income of an undocumented alien will be so high that it would not justify its creation because the tax collected will be very low due to their low incomes.
The conclusion is that if you work with a good lawyer and accountant, you might not have to pay any taxes at all, and on the contrary, you might be able to apply for getting a refund.  Wouldn't that be a nice cash gift from the government along with legalization?

Is DACA being cancelled for being unconstitutional?

When President Barack Obama launched Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for DREAMers, he did so without the approval of Congress (which makes all laws in America) and relied on two provisions that allow the President to set priorities in enforcement (to make the best use of government resources and focus on what is important) and another one that gives prosecutors some discretion in enforcing the law (that is why some times prosecutors decide not to prosecute someone).  The president pretty much has absolute power in this matter, though, legally, he can be penalized for it by Congress through impeachment.  As soon as DACA was announced, the ICE agents who believed that they were being asked to not enforce US immigration laws challenged it in court.  It seems, though, that the DACA program will be declared unconstitutional by Federal Judge Reed O’Connor because it violates American immigration laws. 

What is the best case scenario?  The Government will challenge the decision and the next decision may not come for a year or even two.  In the meantime, most likely, the program will operate as it is.  Hopefully, in the meantime Obama Immigration Reform will pass, and while it is beneficial for DREAMers to have DACA approval to be able to work and live legally before they adjust to RPI status, it is unlikely that existing DACA approvals will be declared null and void.  It is also highly unlikely that DREAMers who have provided all their details will be rounded up and deported because of the political support that undocumented immigrants now have.


What is the worst case scenario?  It is purely speculative at this point, and highly unlikely, but the judge may order the program to be unconstitutional, declare that all DACA approvals are null and void, and no more approvals can be issued.  That would result in the program being shut down with pending applications simply frozen.  Accordingly, DACA approved DREAMers will legally need to stop working because that would be violation of the law and their valid Social Security numbers would no longer be valid because there will no longer be a DHS authorization.  The USCIS will also cancel the EAD cards.  While the law may make it mandatory to deport the individuals who are no longer authorized to be in the country, it is unlikely that it will be enforced.  If all of this were to happen it will be deeply embarrassing as a political defeat for the President but it will give him a reason to push for passing of Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM).

Can I apply for marriage green card in RPI status?

Typically the way the United States immigration laws work is that you can file multiple immigration petitions to USCIS and then take advantage of whatever petition is approved first.  You can then simply withdraw the remaining petitions.  This liberty provided to the immigrants allows them to diversify their risk and hopefully get approved faster.  Unfortunately in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), if an undocumented alien applies to adjust status to Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI), for the duration of that status (5 years for the DREAMers who entered the US before the age of 16 and then 10 years for all others), he of she cannot take advantage of other paths.  For example, an undocumented alien who applies for RPI and is either while the approval is pending or has been granted, gets married to a US citizen and is eligible for adjustment to permanent resident status, will not be able to do so.

While the RPI legal status gives an alien all the privileges of a green card except the permanency, but it appears that the law aims to keep its promise that anyone who entered illegally or is in unlawful status cannot be given LPR status before all others who are waiting in line.  In the same spirit, if you already have an immigration petition pending before USCIS and you file your RPI application as well, but the previous petition is approved first, you get to take advantage of that and simply withdraw your RPI petition.

RPI status after self deportation

In the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), there is a provision that aliens who were deported for being unlawfully in the United States (rather than for violent criminal activities including drug possessions, felonies, etc.) will be allowed to adjust to Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status as long as they have close family members (spouse, children) who are US citizens or permanent residents. 


A lot of people have written to ask me if this benefit is available even to those who left voluntarily or self-deported.  The answer is yes, because the spirit of the Obama Immigration Reform is family reunification.  As long as someone would be legally eligible to be reunited with family members in the United States, it is stupid to keep them separated, because the best families are the ones that are together, and what is good for families is good for America.  So if you are one of those foreigners who left the United States on your own and currently live overseas, wait for the applications to become available that you will file at the US consulate near you, appear for an interview, and then get approved so that you can join your family in the USA.  In the meantime, start getting your paperwork in order to demonstrate that you did live in the US at some time and left voluntarily.

Fee waiver and free legal help for RPI immigrant visa

Those DREAMers who struggled to pay for DACA had a hard time getting a fee waiver, simply because it was a short-term administrative decision by President Barack Obama in an election year with strong opposition from GOP.  It would have been too much to ask Congress to also approve fee waivers, but the best news for undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status is that the United States Government is not only giving away these visas with a pathway to citizenship, you may also not have to pay for legal help and fee. 


A lot of charity and faith based organizations will be distributed a total of $100 million under the so-called “Initial Entry, Adjustment, and Citizenship Assistance” (IEACA) that they can use to hire staff members to help aliens figure out if they are eligible for adjusting their status, putting together their documents, completing the application, and filing the paperwork.  Now remember that a lot of these organizations supposedly designed to help immigrants are full of crooks who feed on taxpayer dollars like these.  For them it is basically easy money so what they do is to pay huge salaries to themselves and hire their friends and family members as consultants to do nothing but advise them.  Still, they will need to provide a lot of free help (just so that they don't get caught) if you are willing to line up and wait.  So as you prepare for applying to adjust your status to RPI, keep an eye out for organizations in your area who will be grabbing millions of dollars from Uncle Sam and make sure that you get your fair share of services from them that might come in form of immigration clinics, one-on-one free consultation with attorneys, and help filling your applications.

Impact of Boston terrorist attacks on RPI legalization

While it maybe difficult for some undocumented immigrants to legalize if they used a different name and forged documents to enter the United States, theoretically, it is possible for an alien who entered without inspection (EWI) to eventually get United States citizenship by using whatever identity he wishes to use (there is already a big mess by undocumented aliens who have claimed to be US citizens).  If DACA background check is an indication of what the USCIS will do during a security clearance before granting RPI immigrant status, it is very likely that terrorists can acquire American citizenship by simply using their newly acquired identities and hiding their criminal  roots.  For instance, USCIS granted DACA to immigrants with just their American high school ID and not insisting on documents like passports and birth certificates.  With massive document fraud worldwide, these criminals can get passports of other countries that do not monitor their records so well, and completely hide their original identities.


Stricter background check of immigrants expected:  In light of the focus on terrorism after the Boston Marathon bombings, experts are expecting that if Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM) were to become law, the security clearance will be more comprehensive with a greater emphasis on confirming the origins of immigrants all the way to their birth, the countries that they have lived in and traveled to.  Right now, if you have had a relatively simple life and have genuine documents to prove your identity, there is nothing to worry.  However, if you have used fraudulent documents and have used more than one identity, be prepared for more scrutiny.  You can start off by preparing your documents like original certificate of birth, current valid passport, visas received, international travel history, schools attended, jobs held, etc.

Can DREAMers be deported prior to getting RPI status?

Obviously, DACA approved DREAMers as long as their approvals are valid (and that is why it is important for you to make sure that you apply to renew your DACA ahead of time), are immune from deportations as long as they do not commit a deportable crime (what DACA does is stop your deportation simply for being illegally present in the United States).  It is for this reason that I have been emphasizing that if you are a DACA eligible DREAMer please do not wait to adjust your status directly to Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) and apply ASAP for DACA.  That way, not only will you get to use a streamlined process for RPI legal immigrant status, you will be able to live legally and work right away without fear of deportation (remember that till you have a legal status, you can get into trouble for just being in the US without authorization and deported never to be able to have the chance to legalize your status).

Legal experts agree that the RPI status applications process may optimistially begin in late 2014 or even early 2015.  In the meantime, all existing laws will continue to be enforced in their current form and ICE will continue to arrest individuals illegally in the country and deport them, along with those who are already in process of removal. Even the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM) has no provision to stop deportation before an immigrant achieves legal status even if that individual is eligible for it and or has even filed an application.  While it is not something that you should rely on but if you are being deported simply because of your illegal presence (and not for deportable offenses like felonies) in the country then you can plead your case before an immigration judge who maybe able to stop your removal if you have family members in the United States who are either citizens or permanent residents.

Is it a crime to have two ITIN numbers?

While illegal immigrants have used ITIN numbers to work illegally, pay taxes, get credit cards, buy cars/homes, etc., that is not why these numbers are given and doing so is abusing the terms of the agreement with the United States Social Security Administration (SSA).  However, it is better to have an ITIN number and pay your taxes to Uncle Sam than to not have any number and not file your income tax return with the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  But relax, because under the provisions of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), working with a false Social Security number or using your ITIN to work are forgiven, and you will be approved for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status as long as you pay all the taxes, in case you have not paid them yet.  If you have paid them, just attach copies of your tax returns with the application.


Now, why would you have two ITIN numbers?  Maybe for the same reasons you have two fake names?  As long as you can build your story and come up with all the needed evidence for your application to adjust your status to RPI immigrant, you will not have any problems, but you might want to use just one of these numbers for the application, and when your petition is approved and you are allowed to apply to SSA for a valid SSN, just write to the IRS to cancel your ITIN and transfer your records from the ITIN to the new authentic SS#.

Eligible for RPI status after DUI?

If you were charged with DUI (driving while intoxicated/impaired) or DWI (driving while impaired) or other related crimes like being under the influence of drugs are typically considered as misdemeanors.  Thankfully, the Obama Immigration Reform is very generous to undocumented aliens caught driving drunk, often also without a license, because if you have done so only three times, you will be approved.  Things get a lot more complicated if you actually hurt someone because then it becomes a felony (though, states have their own laws), which implies that you cannot be approved for any immigration benefit, including legalization under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM) to the so-called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status.  So check the paperwork related to your charges and make sure that it was a misdemeanor.  If it were a felony, and you were not deported, speak to an attorney.

Who can I sponsor in RPI status?

Under the provisions of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), an immigrant granted the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status cannot sponsor a family member outside the United States.  In fact there is no provision for sponsorship, except that the principal applicant can file applications on behalf of spouse and children as derivatives as long as they are in the United States illegally.  However, once the RPI visa is converted to a green card (10 years for most immigrants and 5 years for DREAMers), they can sponsor spouse and children.  Once you become a naturalized US citizen, you can even sponsor your parents, who can then, in turn, sponsor their other children.

Deportation after RPI status adjustment

Indeed DACA stops deportation of DREAMers for two years, if you commit a felony, you can be deported even after DACA approval.  Similarly, it does not matter that you have successfully received the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) legal status under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), if you break US laws, you will be treated more or less the same way you would be if you were an undocumented alien.  So because you were so excited about becoming legal and have become so, also learn the laws of this great land, and realize that what might be perfectly normal and acceptable in your native countries (beating people up to settle a dispute, petty crimes, DUI, drugs, domestic fights, loud music at home, etc.) are actually big problems here.  For something as (seemingly) ordinary as blasting music from your deck on a hot summer day with 50 of your drunk friends, you can be charged with fines, issued citations, and even arrested.  This can eventually jeopardize your immigration situation, so do not engage in this sort of stupid behavior even after becoming a permanent resident.

Eligible for immigration reform if entered with fake name?

Those of you who used fraudulent documents to legally enter the United States and then revered to your real name to live your life in America may have a problem to deal with, particularly if you were fingerprinted either at the point of entry or if you were fingerprinted for any other reason by law enforcement.  Also some of you assumed other identities with stolen Social Security numbers or simply switched to new names after committing a crime or to pass a background check, and I am not even talking about those who claimed to be US citizens.  Unless you have a simple history of always using your legal name, you will need a very good attorney to file your application for adjustment to RPI status because not only using fraudulent documents a crime, with multiple names, your story might not hold together to prove date of entry and continuous presence.

Those of you, the DREAMers (meaning you came to the country as minors) may not even be aware what your parents did and thankfully, while there is a provision to forgive you if you or they made a false claim to US citizenship prior to your 18th birthday, your story should still hold together to prove that you meet all requirements. 


If you are one of those individuals who used the passport and visa of another person to enter the US legally, used another name(s) while here, or assumed the identity of an American citizen, have documents that are in several different names, or some other situation in which you have used multiple names and identities, you have to sort it all out to see if you are even eligible.  As an example, if you entered using a passport that does not belong to you, but you went to school or worked or rented apartments under your real name, you will not be able to prove anything because your information will not match with that in the US Government records.  It is also not clear if the USCIS will insist on looking at original birth certificates before approval and if that is the case, it could get messy.  In all instance of forged and/or fraudulent documents and multiple identities, it is best to consult with an attorney.

Will RPI status provide in-state tuition?

While the BSEOIM specifically bans RPI status immigrants from receiving Federal student loans, the Obama Immigration Reform actually calls for the repeal of Section 505 of IIRAIRA, which bans states from giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.  Going forward, as long as you can prove that you are a resident of a particular state (the requirements vary for each state), you will be eligible for instate tuition and that can mean huge savings.  So, if you would like to go to college in a particular state but live elsewhere, this maybe a good time to plan your move there as one of the many things that you need to do in order to plan for your preparation for adjusting to RPI status.

What will happen to DACA after immigration reform?

The main reason I have been screaming that you should apply for DACA whether immigration reform becomes law or not is that you come out a winner no matter what.  It would be the best investment of a few hundred dollars that you ever made.  You see, if Obama Immigration Reform bill becomes law, you get to choose a streamlined process to adjust to RPI legal immigrant status, which means money and time saved (once you get your new RPI card, you will be ordered to surrender your EAD card).  If Republicans kill the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), you will at least have an EAD and valid SSN, plus an option to renew your DACA, at least during the tenure of President Barack Obama.  If the bill fails in 2013, most likely it will be an issue during the 2014 mid-term elections and assuming Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives, the bill will be reintroduced in 2015 and pass.  While all this is going on, you will still be somewhat legal and enjoying the privileges of having DACA.  Assuming that Obama Amnesty bill passes in 2013, the DACA program will be discontinued pretty quickly and you will then lose the chance to apply for it and will simply have to line up for the new process.

When can DREAMers apply for RPI status adjustment?

Well, my first piece of advice would be that if you meet the requirements Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and were actually trying to decide between applying for DACA or waiting for Obama Immigration Reform, the choice has now been made for you: apply for DACA now because DACA approved DREAMers will not only be approved in just about 6-8 months at the most, they will follow a more streamlined process for adjustment to RPI legal immigrant status.  It is important to realize that the dedicated staff for DACA makes the process fairly simple right now.  On the other hand, applying for legalization under Immigration Reform bill called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM), you will be in the same line as anyone else, and when millions of people apply, expect massive delays and years of waiting.  However, having a DACA approval in your hand right now, you will have a right to legal work and a valid Social Security number


Regarding the timing for RPI visa applications, in the most optimistic scenario, the applications are expected to be filed in the second half of 2014 and the approvals should start coming in during 2015.  Knowing fully well how delays can happen for no reason, it is best to be prepared with your own documents and have enough money in the bank to pay for fees and back taxes.

Get RPI status if arrived after cutoff date passed

Like any other immigration amnesty, the Obama Immigration Reform has a cut off deadline of 31st December in the year 2011.  Whether you entered the country legally or simply crossed the border illegally by foot from Mexico, you will need a pretty reliable evidence of being in the US on or before that date.  What if you came after that date?  It seems it will be impossible to legalize to Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM).  But, there is no need to worry that demand for undocumented workers is going away.  On the contrary, as legalized immigrants fight for high paying jobs, there will be a lot more openings for employees without papers willing to work for low wages, simply because American employers are addicted to cheap labor and will not be able to afford higher wages that legal workers will demand.  The only downside that you will continue to be an illegal immigrant till the next amnesty is passed, which will be sooner than this one, because as more immigrants become citizens, they will have a lot more political clout.

Can DREAMers use employment records for RPI status?

Do you remember how the USCIS initially said that DREAMers and their employers were not immune from prosecution for working illegally or hiring undocumented workers?  In the RPI Immigration bill, it is clearly stated that when immigrants use their work records as evidence for their adjustment applications, they cannot be charged with such crimes as identity theft or Social Security fraud for using forged Social Security cards or just making up SSN.  Similarly, when employers issue copies of their work history or write a letter stating that an immigrant was an employee in their workplace, they will not be charged with breaking the law.  The only word of caution is that if you signed an I-9 form before the age of 18 and checked the US citizenship box, you maybe charged with false claim to US citizenship and in that case, you should discuss this issue with an attorney, because even if you choose to not submit that I9 form, the USCIS can subpoena that.

Is there an age limit for DREAMers for immigration reform?

It must be acknowledged that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM) is particularly kind to DREAMers, undocumented aliens who arrived before their 16th birthday to the United States.  Unlike the past versions of the DREAM Act that had upper age limits (even DACA had an age limit and that stopped many aged out DREAMers from applying), the Obama Immigration Reform extends those privileges to all of them and that means that these childhood arrivals get a green card in just five years and citizenship immediately after that.  You just need to make sure that you have solid evidence of your date of birth, arrival date in the United States, and obviously, meet other requirements for RPI status adjustment.

Do DREAMers get student aid after RPI?

DREAMers who get approved for RPI status get a lot of benefits, but the so-called Federal Student Aid is not one of them, because it is expected that until they become permanent residents they should not receive any Federal benefits.  For those DREAMers who just happen to be in that age bracket that the perfect time to go to college is that five year window, it would mean that they will have to seek loans from elsewhere or invest their own funds.  Going to college is expensive but there are other financial options available and you will need to look for them more diligently.  If it still does not work for you, the great thing about America is that there really is no set time to be in college; you can do that at any age.  So if you cannot attend college during the Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status, just wait to become a LPR and citizen, and then do it.  That way, you can borrow money with much more generous terms.

What will the RPI status card look like?

There has been some confusion about what type of document an undocumented alien approved for the Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (BSEOIM) will receive.  You will be issued a high-tech, tamper proof, secure smart card, similar to a green or LPR card (there is no plan to actually paste a document in your passport -- they are typically given to short-term visitors or nonimmigrants and referred to as visas) so when you check in at an overseas airport to take a flight headed to the US, you will present both your passport and the RPI card as proof that you have a permit to enter the United States). 


All the information related to your identity and legal immigration status (such as full legal name, Social Security number, A#, date of birth, country of origin, legal status, expiration date, etc.) will be scrambled and embedded in this card and can be downloaded by a reader designed for this purpose.  So when you get off an airplane or line up to cross the border by land from Mexico/Canada, the immigration agent can see all the information with just a swipe or tap (while the Customs and Border Patrol officer may not stamp your passport when you enter the US, you will still be required to carry your passport with you).  You will also use this card as evidence that you are authorized to work in the United States when you start work at a new employer.  The RPI card will also be used at the DMV/RMV.  It can also be used as an ID to get on a plane within the country or wherever else you maybe asked to show identification.  Particularly for immigrants in border states, if ordered by an officer at a checkpoint, the RPI card can be used to prove that you are legal resident in the United States.

What status will undocumented aliens have during RPI application process?

Unless you are a DACA approved DREAMer authorized to work (that is why I strongly suggest that anyone eligible to apply for DACA should do so) and even travel overseas with restrictions, all other undocumented immigrants who apply to adjust to Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, will have no lawful status while their applications are being processed by the USCIS.  In other words, during this waiting period, they will not be able to work legally or travel overseas or apply for driver's licenses or do any of the other things that RPI immigrants will be allowed to do.  This means that they will have to continue to live a life of an illegal immigrant but as soon as the Obama Immigration Reform becomes law, chances are that except for deportable offenses, immigrants will not be harassed just for being illegally in the country.  And considering how many immigrants have to wait for months or years for their applications to be approved -- this will get worse with the RPI approval process because of massive number of applications expected -- the misery of being without papers is likely to continue for many more years to come.

Am I eligible for RPI immigration visa if I worked illegally?

The great news about the Obama Comprehensive Immigration Reform (officially called as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013) is that undocumented aliens who worked without authorization using a fake Social Security number or were paid in cash under the table are not going to be penalized for these crimes.  The only problem is if you actually made a false claim to US citizenship after the age of 18.  Other than that, if you worked without papers and paid taxes, you will not be charged with any crimes, and instead, will be approved for a Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status, that subsequently leads to a green card, and after that naturalization to United States citizen.  If you did not pay taxes, it will not disqualify you either; you will just need to pay all the back taxes before approval.

Will DREAMers be able to join Military after RPI status?

In addition to all the other great benefits of RPI legal immigration status, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 stipulates that a DREAMer granted the Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status can enlist in the US armed forces.  While the DREAMers are already on a fast track to green card and naturalization, it is important to remember that immigrants who are military personnel have other privileges and fee waivers when applying for immigration benefits like naturalization.  It seems that as long as DREAMers meet the requirements of the US Military, they should be able to join, though, individuals with misdemeanors might have to contend with somewhat different standards that those of the USCIS.

False claim to US citizenship by DREAMers

Under the United States immigration laws, one of the biggest crimes a non-US citizen (whether legal or illegal) can do is to claim to be an American citizen, and thus, gain benefits and privileges reserved exclusively for citizens, like voting or applying for loans or getting into college, etc.  Unfortunately, a huge number of illegal immigrants who came as children have broken this law.  All immigration petitions can be denied based on this admission by an alien, and it is no surprise that the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 also explicitly restates this.  It turns out that not only did these so-called DREAMers did so, there is a huge paper trail documenting their behavior.

How will the USCIS find out that you made a fraudulent claim to be an American citizen?

Legally speaking, while filing the application for RPI status, there will be a specific question asking if you have ever claimed to be a United States citizen, and you only have one course:  tell the truth if you have done so.  By lying, you are jeopardizing not only chances of your legalization under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, you are also asking to be arrested, deported, and banned for life from entering the USA.  Chances are that if you have gone to college, taken out student loans, worked at a job, etc., and the adjudicating officer suspects that you may have done so, the USCIS can simply subpoena your file and that will contain a record of what you did, and many workplaces will still have your I-9 forms.  Remember that you will be signing the application swearing to tell nothing but the truth and if you are caught lying, your application will be rejected and you will be charged, among other crimes, with perjury.


What are your options if you broke the law with regards to claiming citizenship? It all depends on where the claim was made and what benefit was derived from it.  If a DREAMer made a claim before the age of 18 (for example, if the parents lied to the DREAMer about the citizenship status or provided fraudulent documents like birth certificate and the minor simply accepted that at face value), then, this will not be a problem.  The law adds that if the claim was also made after the age of 18 but the applicant lacked the mental competence, she or he can still be forgiven, but you will need to make that case before a judge.  These cases are not easy to resolve and you will need a very competent attorney to argue it before a court.  The judge will look for a pattern.  Was it a honest mistake that you thought you were a US citizen because your parents told you so and you chose to believe them (expect aggressive questioning related to what happened when you wanted to get a driver's license at the age of 16 or wanted to take a trip to visit family overseas) or was it that you deliberately did so to get a loan/aid, or to be able to work.

Will you be definitely caught by the USCIS?  I have read a lot of posts on forums online claiming that USCIS has been unable to catch undocumented aliens who claimed to be US citizens or even stole the identities of Americans and they are now green card holders or naturalized citizens, but this is generally not the best way to proceed forward.  If you assume that you might just get lucky, you are jeopardizing your chance to become a US citizen.  It is best to work with the assumption that despite all the immigration related fraud, you will be caught, and the best way to deal with this (unless you made the claim before the age of 18) is to get professional legal help.

Docs needed by DREAMers for RPI status without DACA approval

Based on my understanding of how the legalization process works for other similar visas issued by the US Government, here is a tentative list of documents that you may start to compile, so that when the USCIS starts accepting visa applications, all you need to do is to fill the application.  Remember that if you are a DREAMer with DACA approval in hand the list of documents needed is quite different.

  1. Valid passport.  Since many countries have a broken process of serving their own citizens, and there will be a surge of applications (Mexican DREAMers, take note) in coming months, you should apply for one right away.
  2. Birth certificate.  It might also come handy if you cannot get a passport.
  3. If you have had legal troubles, compile the documents related to the court case.  Approach the attorneys involved in the case or the courts you attended to get copies of the documentation.  DO NOT even think you can hide criminal behavior of any kind because having a criminal background is not as bad as trying to hide it.

  4. Proof of all the employment that you have had and the amount of wages that you made in each one of them (W-2 forms for each year should suffice).  Apparently, working illegally, that is, without an authorization to work or working with a fraudulent SSN is not considered a crime in the Obama Immigration Reform, and therefore, it is best to come clean, even if you were paid in cash under the table.
  5. Start saving money to pay for legalization.  There is no penalty for minors and DREAMers, you should still save the money in case you have not filed income taxes, because you will need to pay whatever taxes you owe.
  6. If you came to the USA illegally, meaning entry without inspection (EWI), you will need good  documentation that you came prior to December 31, 2011.  It can be in form of school/work records, immunization record, etc.
  7. If you entered the USA legally with a proper visa, that is, you entered after inspection at an airport or border checkpoint, the passport that you used to enter.  It will be great if you still have the I-94 form that you completed before entry, though, there is no reason to worry, if your passport has a clear stamp indicating the date of entry.
  8. Proof of doing your income taxes with the United States IRS whether done with an ITIN or a fake SS#, as long as the tax documents have your real name.
  9. Proof of continuous presence.  It can be documents related to school/college/work/bank/leases, etc. that show that you did not leave the country and have resided here ever since.

Documents needed by DACA approved DREAMers to get RPI Status

For the purpose of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, a DREAMer is defined as an alien who entered the United States before the 16th birthday and meets other requirements related to education and having a crime-free background.  For these persons to take advantage of the RPI status, which after five years will lead to a green card, and an immediate path to US citizenship, the process is going to work somewhat differently for those DREAMers who have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and those who either were not eligible for DACA or refused to apply for it.

Proof required to apply for RPI visa by DACA approved DREAMers


Since the DACA approved DREAMers have already provided most of the information needed by the USCIS, they will be grandfathered into the new process.  Obviously, the exact details of this streamlined process are not yet known, but it is expected that DACA approved candidates will need to file a simpler application with a much lower fee, reappear for a set of biometrics/fingerprints (your background will be checked again to make sure that you did not commit crimes after DACA), and if all looks good, you will be approved for the RPI status, given a new card indicating the RPI status (and the way in which permanent residents are ordered to surrender their green cards at the time of naturalization, you too will be required to surrender your EAD card), thus, giving you the privileges of traveling overseas without an advanced parole document, join the Military, and have access to all other privileges, that were not always available after DACA.

How will DREAMers get green cards under Obama Amnesty?

Thankfully, some of the provisions of DREAM Act are being revived in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.  That means that the RPI status for DREAMers works differently.  In summary, as soon as they have been in this legal status for five years, they apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident (commonly called a green card).  This time period is 10 years for all other undocumented aliens.  The shorter period for DREAMers is being given to them as a recognition of their strong ties to America and with a consideration that they were children when they were forced by their parents into a criminal situation for which they should not be punished.  Those who want to be categorized as DREAMers, in addition to coming to the US before their 15th birthday, must obtain a high school diploma or equivalent, and pursue higher education or serve in the military.

Of course, DREAMers will need to meet some requirements in order to apply for a green card:

  1. Maintain continuous presence for five years.
  2. Pay taxes to the IRS.
  3. Work in the United States regularly. This is going to be the most difficult one to qualify because the unemployment situation in the United States will only get worse in the future.  It is not clear how much of an employment gap will be acceptable.  It is understood that women can choose to be housewives only if someone can guarantee that they have the income to support them (immigrants unable to work or find anyone unable to provide financial guarantee for them will simply be deported).  It must also be emphasized that the job has to be in the United States.  So pretty much like the green card holders, RPI status holders cannot seek jobs in other countries.
  4. Knowledge of Civics and English.  While it maybe easy for many DREAMers, some of them will need to put extra effort in meeting this requirement.  That might include going back to school.
  5. Pay a $1,000 penalty, in addition to application fee for permanent resident.

Will immigrants in removal proceedings be allowed to apply for RPI?

While only a selected group of illegal immigrants who were deported will be eligible for adjustment of status to RPI, the good news in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is that anyone without papers who has received removal orders or is already in removal proceedings will be allowed to apply.  They will need to provide information on their deportation orders and as soon as they apply, their deportation will be put on hold, they will receive a work permit and authentic Social Security number, and will be able to go on with their lives like any other undocumented alien.  The paperwork related to removal will be cleared from the record once they are approved as a Registered Provision Immigrant.

Can immigrants who left or were deported get Obama Amnesty?

Generally speaking, amnesties require you to meet the continuous presence eligibility requirement and so is the case for RPI visa legal status, but in case of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, there is one exception on humanitarian grounds so that families are not separated.  What it means is that if an immigrant was deported for non-criminal reasons (like driving without a license or working without authorization) he or she can apply to re-enter the United States in RPI status if they are the spouse of or parent of a child who is United States citizen or lawful permanent resident or a DREAMer.  The process, obviously, will work a little different for those aliens who are outside the USA, because they will not be able to enter the country before they are approved.  This provision cannot be used to bring family members who were never in the USA nor can it be used if they were not married at the time of deportation (meaning that you cannot marry after they were deported).

What are the benefits of RPI status?

Despite the fact that undocumented aliens legalized with the Registered Provision Immigrant (RPI) legal status will not be able to claim welfare or Obamacare or some other benefits available only to US citizens and green card holders, the list of privileges and advantages is huge:
  1. Work permit with a valid Social Security number that will allow them to work for any employer in the United States. 
  2. Travel anywhere in the world, though, like any green card holder, they will need to keep strong ties to the United States.  In other words, they cannot be away for too long and will need to maintain a house here, pay taxes, and return within six months.  Obviously, no need to file for an advanced parole before leaving.
  3. Receive all other privileges like applying for a driver's license, other specialized licenses like those for nursing, etc.
  4. Apply for credit cards, open bank accounts, buy insurance, purchase homes/cars, and almost any other actions that are needed to live the American dream.

How will a family apply for RPI status?

The best part of “Registered Provision Immigrant” (RPI) legal status is that one of the illegal immigrants in the family can assume the role of a principal applicant for Obama Amnesty under the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.  If this person has a spouse and/or children who are also in the United States without papers, they can all apply as derivatives of the principal applicant, meaning that they will be able to file their applications as a packet and receive discounts on the application fees.  This will also simplify the process because tracking the application or attending any in-person interviews at a local USCIS office or other matters can be dealt as a group.  I must emphasize that all the members of the family must meet all the eligibility requirements of RPI legal status, meaning that they should be in the United States as well.  Until someone receives a green card, they will not be able to sponsor family members who are overseas.

How will the RPI status work for DREAMers?

As per provisions of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, the adjustment of status to “Registered Provision Immigrant” (RPI) will work slightly differently.  Obviously in order to become legal the eligibility requirements for RPI visa are the same for all immigrants without papers, but for those illegal immigrants in the United States who entered the country when they were minors (essentially arrived as children, or before their 15th birthday), there is no need to pay the $500 penalty.  There will also be a fee exemption for minor DREAMers when they apply as a family.  The best part is that DREAMer students only need to be in the RPI status for just five years, after which they will be eligible to apply for permanent resident status or what is popularly known as receiving a green card.  Things get even better for DREAMers: the day they get approved for permanent residency, they will be able to file for naturalization.  So in the most optimistic scenario, if the Obama Amnesty passes in 2013 and USCIS starts accepting applications in 2014/2015, and first approvals come in 2015/2016, DREAMers would start getting their green cards around 2019/2020 and their citizenship in 2020/2021, enabling many of them to vote in the 2020 elections.  I must reiterate, though, that to be called a DREAMer, you must eventually get a high school diploma or equivalent and pursue higher education or serve in the military.

Apply for DACA with married name

Stella writes, "I got married to another illegal immigrant in the United States and I want to use my husband's last name except none of my ID have it.  Should I just keep using my maiden name or can I file with my husband's surname?"

If you have no ID (like a valid passport) that shows your new name and you have not changed your name officially in your native country (for example, having the evidence in form of a court order), you cannot yet use your married name at this time.  Basically if you want to use your married name you first have to do the paperwork in your country (it will depend on your native country's laws on what paperwork needs to be done), get a new passport with the married name, and only then you will be able to use it in immigration benefits applications in the United States.  I suggest that right now you get your DACA application going with the maiden name to keep things simple but start the process in your native country to change your name and get a new passport.  Once you have the new ID you can wait till it is time to renew and can change it at that time.  Name changes with USCIS are very tricky in your situation because you are illegally in the US and have not done the paperwork in your country.  There is no harm in having a maiden name for the time being.  Obviously, if Obama Amnesty is passed and you have your name change paperwork completed, you can use your new name at that time, and after that get a new driver's license and Social Security card.

IRS rejects taxes by DACA approved DREAMers using a fake SSN

Several DREAMers are reporting that for the work they did prior to being approved for DACA and getting their legal Social Security number, when they filed taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), while they received their tax refund on time, they got a letter from the agency asking to correct the mistake due to a mismatch of the SS# and name on the W-2 form.

So what has happened here?  Well, while it is mandatory to file taxes by everyone, this is essentially a big mess for which the IRS and SSA have no process to deal with.  When an illegal immigrant who uses someone else's SS# or a made up number to work and then file taxes, the IRS often does not have the resources to deal with the confusing situation.  It might send letters about the errors to whatever addresses it has on file but some undocumented aliens have been able to fool the system by also getting refunds and literally creating an identity in the IRS databases.

Unfortunately, this system gets totally confused when the SSN on the W-2 form does not match with the number you use to file your taxes.  So those aliens who have a W-2 from an illegal SSN and need to file a tax return with their genuine number, there is no path provided by the IRS.  This problem will only get worse with those DREAMers have been unsuccessful in updating their SSN at their place of employment after DACA approval.  Not only is it illegal to work with a fake SSN when you have an authentic number, the system at IRS simply cannot handle the mess.  That is why the experts suggest that at least for the future, DACA approved DREAMers quit their illegal job immediately and get another job using their valid SSN.  At this time, there is no good answer as to what to do, unless the IRS issues some guidelines, but simply file your taxes, keep a good record of the paperwork, and then simply wait.

Can DACA approved DREAMers be deported for committing crimes?

You see the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program designed to help DREAMers from being deported for being in the country illegally, which by itself alone is a deportable offense.  What it does not do is to stop deportation for other criminal acts.  That is why in the eligibility requirements for DACA an applicant should not have committed felonies.  Needless to say that if a DACA approved DREAMers commits a felony after approval, deportation is guaranteed, along with a permanent bar to enter the United States.  You may also want to know that even permanent residents are deported if they commit a felony.

Is Social Security Number for DACA different?

The Social Security Administration has a system for assigning SSN.  When a DREAMer or illegal/legal alien is assigned a new number, it is no different than a number assigned at birth to a US citizen except that for those immigrants who are not authorized to be in the country permanently, their authorization to work is contingent upon authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In other words, if you do not have a valid visa to be in the US, even if you have your very own Social Security card with your own legal SS#, it is not valid as far as employment is concerned.  In summary, you can use your SSN to go on with your life like anyone else and once you have this number, that is the only number you should use (typically anyone who needs your Social will ask for it).  You can use this number to apply for a driver's license, open bank accounts, apply for loans/credit cards, etc.

Is it legal for an employer to fire you for updating you SSN?

In the United States an individual can be fired for no reason because we are nation of at-will employment.  Indeed, there are instances where this can be challenged, but they are few and extremely difficult to contest in a court.  So for a DREAMer who started working with a false Social Security number and then tried to change SS# after being approved for DACA, unless the employer is accommodating and understands your situation, what you have done is to demonstrate to your employer that you lied when you started to work and provided forged documents (so it is not the employer who did anything illegal but it is you who broke the law by working illegally  - do not even think about trying to sue your employer because you don't have a case).  Do not forget that it is a crime for an employer to hire illegal workers so your employer is obviously concerned about charges of breaking the law, but more importantly, an employee who lied and submitted fake papers is generally not welcome at most decent workplaces.  If you cannot be trusted to tell the truth and not break the law, how can you be trusted with being a good employee. 

So instead of putting your employer in an uncomfortable situation of having to fire you, and thus, exposing your criminal actions (definitely this employer will not say a single good thing about you as a reference), if you are an undocumented alien who now is legally authorized to work, simply leave the job on good terms, and find another employment.  Do not even try to use an excuse of stolen identity because no decent company will accept that reason unless it can be documented.