On Thursday 18 February, Democrats in Congress introduced a comprehensive immigration bill, backed by President Joe Biden, that could grant status to approximately 11-million immigrants and dramatically transform US Immigration Policy.
The US Citizenship Act of 2021 establishes an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US on or before 1 January 2021. The act gives undocumented immigrants five years of provisional status, after which they can apply for a green card. Three years after that, they can apply for citizenship.
It also creates an expedited path to citizenship for farmworkers and DACA recipients. By providing work history and background checks, certain qualified applicants could skip the five years of provisional status and become eligible for green cards more quickly.
To be eligible, applicants would need to have been physically present in the United States on or before 1 January 2021. However, the Department of Homeland Security may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after 20 January 2017 who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian reasons.
Pathways to citizenship for undocumented individuals, dreamers, TPS recipients
The Citizenship Act of 2021 offers an eight-year citizenship path for various undocumented immigrants in the United States. This benefit would apply to TPS holders, particular dreamers, and immigrant farmworkers. Immigrants who were present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021 and who fulfill other requirements first apply for a temporary legal status. After five years of continuous residence in the U.S., these individuals are eligible to apply for permanent residence, referred to colloquially as a “green card.” Ultimately, green card recipients would be able to naturalize as U.S. citizens after another three years of permanent resident status.
The bill also includes a provision to speed up the path to a green card for certain non-citizens who arrived in the United States as minor children. This may include TPS, DACA, and farmworkers’ children. Individuals who meet the requirements under this provision would be eligible to apply for a green card right away, instead of waiting for five years. In short, the provision would decrease the path to citizenship to just three years.
Restructuring employment-based immigration
The proposed Citizenship Act seeks to grow the U.S. economy by reducing lengthy wait times, clearing employment-based visa backlogs, eliminating per-country visa caps, and recapturing unused visas. The bill would create a program to promote regional economic development, incentivize higher wages for non-immigrants, and give DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions.
The proposed bill would provide additional protections and benefits to dependents of foreign national workers. It would increase the opportunities for dependents of H-1B visa holders to get work authorization. This is an expansion of the H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) rules, which does not permit dependent children to get work authorization.
The bill would prevent children from “aging out” of the system because it includes additional protections for the family unit. For now, children who turn 21 are no longer eligible for immigration benefits as a dependent of their parents’ permanent residency applications. The Child Status Protection Act currently includes some few exceptions to allow children who turn 21 to continue to qualify for benefits of immigration.
The bill empowers immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join their family on a temporary basis in the United States while they wait for green cards to become available. The proposed bill also seeks to decrease visa wait times for family-based immigration and permit families to reunite more swiftly. it is common for parents, children, and spouses to be separated while waiting for an immigrant visa. Biden wants to increase per-country visa caps, clear backlogs, and generally decrease the wait times for families. Spouses and children of legal permanent residents would move to the immediate relative categories and would not be exempt from the caps in the family preference categories.
Biden efforts to “humanize” the language used for immigrants
Biden has taken a personal interest in urging his administration to utilize more humanized language when referring to immigrants in the United States. For example, he encourages officials to use the word “non-citizen” instead of “alien.” More inclusive language is also a part of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. Other terms the administration will try to eliminate from the government’s vocabulary include “illegal alien,” to be replaced with “undocumented non-citizen” or “undocumented individual,” and “assimilation,” to replaced with “integration” or “civic integration.”
For Congress to pass the US Citizenship Act of 2021, all Democrats and 10 Republicans must vote in favor of the bill. Many congressional Democrats acknowledge this will be a difficult task, however, Senator Bob Menendez (NY-D) insists that “[w]e will never win an argument that we don’t have the courage to make, [so w]e will do the righteous thing and make our case for both inclusive and lasting immigration reform. And we have seen in poll after poll, the vast majority of Americans are standing with us.”
If you’re applying for citizenship in the USA, an immigration attorney with Passage Immigration Law will be able to help make the process smooth. We offer assistance to people across the country including in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington. Whether you’re applying for a visa, a green card, or permanent citizenship, we’ll update you on what you need to learn and try to help you through any language barriers.
We work hard to protect the rights of non-citizens who come to us for local representation. Every case that’s brought to us is addressed in a timely manner. An immigration attorney with Passage Immigration Law will patiently work with you to come up with the answers that may solve your concerns. Call (503) 427-8243 or schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers here.
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