Young undocumented immigrants wishing to apply for deferred deportation under the policy President Barack Obama announced in June will have to pay a fee of $465, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Friday.
The proceeds from the fee will be used to finance the program, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said in a conference call with the media.
"Over the past three years, this administration has undertaken an unprecedented effort to transform the immigration enforcement system into one that focuses on public safety, border security and the integrity of the immigration system," he said.
On June 15, Obama ordered the Department of Homeland Security to defer deportation of qualified undocumented immigrants 30 years old and younger who were brought to the United States before the age of 16.
Applicants will need five years of continuous residence in the country, a high school diploma or GED, and proof of current or previous military service or college enrollment.
Those seeking deferred action will also have to submit fingerprints and other biometric data and undergo an extensive background check.
The process is confidential and applicants' information will not be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement except in cases where the individual has a felony conviction, is deemed a threat to national security or public safety or lies on the application, the USCIS said.
Applicants "who knowingly make a misrepresentation or knowingly fail to disclose facts will be treated as an immigration enforcement priority to the fullest extent permitted by law," Mayorkas said.
A senior administration official speaking on background said immigrants who committed serious crimes - including DUI infractions - or have three misdemeanor convictions will be excluded from consideration.
Driving without a license will not be treated as a "significant minor offense," the official said.
USCIS is prepared to waive the $465 fee "in limited circumstances," Mayorkas said, and other officials said waivers would likely be granted to the homeless, the severely disabled and people living in extreme poverty.
Authorities have suspended roughly 1,200 deportations since Obama announced the new guidelines, officials said.
Though USCIS has declined to say how many people it expects to apply for deferred action, the Immigration Policy Center estimates that as many as 1.3 million undocumented immigrants may benefit from the program.
The largest numbers of potential beneficiaries are in California, 412,560; Texas, 226,700; Florida, 85,750; New York, 70,170; Illinois, 67,460; and Arizona, 53,880, the IPC says.
After setting records for deportations in his first three years in office, Obama introduced the new approach in the midst of his re-election campaign under strong pressure from immigrants rights groups and fellow Democrats in Congress.
The Republicans have blasted the new policy as amnesty for lawbreakers. EFE