WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will begin accepting applications on Feb. 18 for temporary legal status from children of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with their parents, under a plan announced by President Barack Obama last November.
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) said on Thursday the applications for the program to defer deportation and obtain a 3-year legal status would be available to undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children before 2010.
They will be the first group of immigrants who will benefit from Obama's sweeping immigration reform announced on Nov. 20.
The plan will let up to 4.7 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States stay without threat of deportation, including about 4.4 million who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
As part of the reform, Obama expanded the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to include undocumented immigrants who entered the country before 2010, eliminate the requirement that applicants be younger than 31 years old, and lengthen the renewable deferral period to three years from two.
"This expansion is set to benefit nearly 1 million people, and will protect them from deportation and provide them with work permits," United We Dream, an immigrant youth organization, said on Thursday, welcoming the announcement.
Republicans have vowed to fight Obama's immigration plan, charging the president overstepped his constitutional powers in taking the executive action.
(Writing by Sandra Maler; Editing by Peter Cooney)