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Immigrants can start applying to deferred action program today

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In the past couple of months, we have talked about President Obama's executive order that opens the door for certain illegal immigrants to obtain a work permit and be free from deportation for a period of two years. Today's date is important because interested immigrants in Maryland, Virginia and around the country may now begin to submit their applications for the deferred action program.

There are a number of criteria that applicants must meet in order to be approved under this change in immigration law. The first is an age requirement. Immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16 and must have been under 31 as of June 15 of this year. The second is an education requirement. Immigrants must be a veteran of the armed forces, must have earned a high school diploma or a GED, or must be currently enrolled in school.

There is also a residency requirement. Applicants must have been living in the country for the past five years or more. In addition, there is a criminal history check. In order to qualify for the program, immigrants must not have convictions for particular offenses on their criminal record. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, as many as 1.7 million immigrants could stand to benefit from the program.

While the program would provide a needed reprieve from deportation for successful applicants, it does not offer a path to permanent residency or U.S. citizenship. To offset the estimated cost of the program, immigrants will be required to submit a $465 fee along with their application. In exceptional cases of financial hardship, immigrants can have the fee waived.

Source: The Washington Post, "US government launches new immigration program," Alicia A. Caldwell, Aug. 14, 2012.

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