Obama unveils major US immigration overhaul

There are estimated to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

Millions of immigrants living illegally in the US will be allowed to apply for work permits under a major overhaul unveiled by President Barack Obama.

They include immigrants living in the US for five years and have children staying legally in the US.

Overall up to five million are expected to benefit from a package of changes forced through using executive orders that allow Obama to bypass Congress.

There are estimated to be 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

Under Obama's plan, undocumented parents of children who are US citizens or legal residents will be able to apply for work permits lasting three years.

Only parents who have lived in the US for five years will qualify - about four million people are estimated to fit this criterion.

Hundreds of thousands more will benefit from other changes, including a decision to broaden a scheme giving temporary legal status to those who arrived in the US as children.

He insisted his proposals did not amount to an amnesty.

"What I'm describing is accountability - a common-sense, middle ground approach," he said.

Although the plan will allow millions to work, it will not offer a path to citizenship or entitle them to the same benefits as Americans, he said.

"If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up," he said.

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