President Joe Biden sent an immigration reform bill to Congress on his first day in office. The bill is called “The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021,” and if it were to become law, it would be the largest legislative overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in decades. The following is a brief summary of the proposed reforms:
Path to Citizenship: An eight-year path to U.S. citizenship for the approximate 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as of January 1, 2021. Applicants would first be granted temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass background checks and pay their required taxes. They could then apply for U.S. citizenship three years later.
Dreamers, TPS Holders & Farmworkers: People with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), commonly referred to as Dreamers, TPS holders, and farmworkers may be immediately eligible for their green cards if they meet certain requirements. They could then apply for U.S. citizenship three years later. Applicants must have been present in the U.S. as of January 1, 2021.
Prior Deportations: The Department of Homeland Security may waive the above-stated physical presence requirements for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 if the applicant was physically present in the U.S. for at least three years prior to their deportation. This waiver would be available to promote family unity and in consideration of other humanitarian purposes.
Reduce Visa Backlogs: Reform the family-based and employment-based immigration system by clearing current backlogs of available immigrant visas. Going forward, raise annual per-country limits on family-based immigrant visas and eliminate annual per-country limits on employment-based immigrant visas. Visa backlogs would be further reduced by exempting derivative spouse and children of employment-based visas from quotas. In addition, the bill would allow immigrants with approved family-based petition to join their family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while they wait for a green card to become available.
Eliminate Unlawful Presence Bar (3 and 10-Year Bar): Eliminate the current law stating that a person is inadmissible (ineligible for their green card) to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years if they have departed the U.S. after residing here without lawful status for a certain period of time.
H-1B Visas: Dependents of H-1B visa holders would be eligible for work authorization, and children would be prevented from “aging out.”
Border Security: Provide additional funding for border security, including resources to supplement existing border security with technology and infrastructure. The bill does not provide additional funding for completion of a border wall.
Address Root Cause of Migration: Increase assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home countries.
Improve Immigration Courts: Reduce backlogs in immigration courts, expand training for immigration judges, and improve technology for immigration courts. The bill would also allow immigration judges to exercise their discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals.
Asylum: Eliminate the one-year filing deadline to be eligible for asylum.
Alien vs. Noncitizen: Replace the word “alien” with “noncitizen” in U.S. immigration laws.
President Biden’s bill is a long way from actually becoming law. There will obviously be disagreements, followed by negotiations and compromise. But for now, it is exciting to see President Biden making comprehensive immigration reform one of his legislative priorities.
Reeves Immigration Law Group is committed to keeping you informed as the Biden administration continues their attempts to revamp our current immigration system. Please be sure to check our website often and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest updates. You can also call us at 1-800-795-8009 to schedule a free consultation.