Washington: The Obama administration has directed young illegal immigrants to fill out new forms and pay $465 if they want to apply under a new programme that would let them avoid deportation and obtain a US work permit.
The government renewed warnings that the process would not lead to citizenship or give them permission to travel internationally. It will begin accepting immigrants` applications on Wednesday.
The announcement came just months before what is shaping up to be a tight contest for the White House.
Seeking re-election, President Barack Obama has come under fire by Hispanic voters and others who have say he has not fulfilled a previous campaign promise to reform the nation`s immigration laws. The policy change could stop deportations for more than a million young illegal immigrants.
The paperwork for the programme, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, can be downloaded from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, said the agency`s director, Alejandro Mayorkas. Applicants must pay a $465 fee and provide proof of identity and eligibility.
Under guidelines that the administration announced yesterday, the agency said proof of identity and eligibility under the programme could include a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records.
The Department of Homeland /Security said that in some instances, multiple sworn affidavits, signed by a third party under penalty of perjury, could also be used.
With the start of the programme nearing, immigrants have been working on getting their paperwork in order. Yesterday 23-year-old Evelyn Medina, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was in line at that country`s consulate in Washington about 6:30 am to secure a passport. With her passport in hand, Medina was all smiles as she walked out of the building just before 2 pm, saying "finally" as she clutched the document.
Medina said she has been in the United States for about 10 years and is currently a student at a Maryland college, hoping to eventually earn a master`s degree and become a social worker.
She was not alone. Leonardo Irias Navas, head of the consular section at the Embassy of Honduras, said the number of people applying for passports has more than doubled in the last week.