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How You Can Work Legally in the United States If You Aren’t a Citizen

Christy Rakoczy - Mic
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September 12, 2017

How Do You Become A U.S. Citizen? (AJ+)

Plenty of data suggests that immigrant workers are a boon to the United States’ economy — contributing valuable innovation, job-creation, labor and even tax revenue. But many hard-working and talented people, both inside and outside of the United States, don’t have any way to work legally because of tough immigration laws.

“Our immigration system is so complicated, and employment-based visas and employment-based green cards come in all different types,” said Lily Axelrod, a Memphis-based immigration attorney. Unfortunately, many of these are non-immigrant visas, which are temporary: Workers can come to the country for a limited period of time, but still have no path to build permanent lives here.

Worse, most options that make working legally possible - even temporarily - are closed to anyone who entered the U.S. unlawfully, including those brought over as children. “Our system is not set up to bring people from an undocumented status to being able to lawfully live and work,” said Patricia Malone, the associate director of Immigration Advocates Network.

There are a few exceptions, though: The Immigration Reform and Control Act passed in 1986 provided a path to citizenship for 3 million undocumented immigrants who entered the United States prior to Jan. 1, 1982. And the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which then-President Barack Obama created through executive order, provided work permits and protection from deportation for young people brought to the United States as kids.

But President Donald Trump’s recent announcement that DACA will end within six months has thrown the future employment status of more than 787,000 young people currently protected by DACA into chaos.

For DACA recipients and others hoping to work in the U.S., take a look at what you need to know about options to get a visa — or renew your DACA benefits at Mic.

Related: Don’t Punish the Dreamers - Punish the Corporations Driving Forced Migration (CommonDreams)

Related: New Program Gives Free Help to 3 Million Mexican Immigrants on Path to Citizenship (KENS5)

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