Immigrants to pay $465 for work permits

By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The Obama administration said Friday that it will begin charging $465 this month for temporary work permits for many young illegal immigrants as it laid out details of one its signature new policies on immigration.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting applications Aug. 15 for permits, which are subject to renewal for two years. It will consider a limited number of fee exemptions but expects costs to be shouldered by applicants, not taxpayers.

The agency said the number of applications will determine how many employees it hires, and it did not provide an estimate for the total cost of the program. The Associated Press reported last month that Homeland Security Department internal documents estimated hundreds of employees may be hired and that the total cost could top $585 million.

Under the program, which President Barack Obama announced in June, immigrants must have arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday, be 30 or younger, lived in the U.S. at least five years and be in school, graduated or served in the military. They are ineligible if convicted of a felony, three misdemeanors or one "significant" misdemeanor.

Significant misdemeanors, as defined by Homeland Security, include driving under the influence and gun and sex offenses. Driving without a license is not considered a significant misdemeanor, an important point because most states do not grant licenses to illegal immigrants.

Applicants, who must attend an appointment and submit to background checks, may have to wait several months for a ruling. The wait will depend on the backlog.

Agency Director Alejandro Mayorkas said in a conference call with reporters that fee exemptions will be granted "in limited circumstances." He wasn't more specific, but the administration signaled exemptions are expected to be used sparingly, such as for the homeless, significantly disabled or people living in deep poverty.

The agency said it will not use information gathered during the applications to begin deportation proceedings, with some exceptions for certain criminal convictions and public safety threats. Mayorkas said anyone who lies on their applications will be subject to criminal prosecution and deportation.

The internal documents obtained by the AP estimated that the number of applicants might top 1 million in the first year, or more than 3,000 a day. It will cost between $467 million and $585 million to process applications in the first two years, with revenues from fees paid by immigrants estimated at $484 million.