That was the case in 2012, when the government instituted the deferred deportation program for young undocumented immigrants known as Deferred Action for Childhood.
They also are advising immigrants to be aware of the program's limitations -- that it is not a path to citizenship. And, they urge immigrants not to be fooled by profiteers who prey on vulnerable immigrants with false promises of citizenship or protection in exchange for cash.
More from USA Today:
Obama's plan to protect 5M immigrants
Full text of Obama's speech
Echoes of Bush in Obama's speech
"The first thing that we are telling everybody is that only a subset of the undocumented qualify for what the president is announcing and really explain to them the temporary nature of the program,'' says Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, which calls itself CHIRLA.
The groups were awaiting final details of the president's plans before providing personalized advise to clients on eligibility.
For those immigrants who qualify, Salas said it will be important for them to begin securing original copies of documents that will prove how long they have been in this country as well as establish legal family ties that may be important to their case. They may need to go to the consulate of their country of origin, or to their school districts or places of former residence to obtain proof.
Supporting evidence that may be required include birth certificates, family and adoption records, legal guardianship records, school records, passports and other official documents, Salas says.
Read MoreObama immigration actions detailed
They may need to prove continuous residency over a period of years, which can be established with pay stubs, utility bills, rental agreements or other ordinary records.
An additional requirement will be establishing evidence of good moral character, Salas said. In essence, she said, applicants need to do a background check on themselves to be sure there are no unresolved issues or minor legal violations in their past that could trip up their application.
"Finally, we will help them fill out their paperwork,'' Salas says. "We can help them prove their cases.''