I prepared this post in reply to many questions from my clients regarding the new immigration law proposed by President Biden. This is what we need to know:
In February 2021, Congressional Democrats introduced a comprehensive bill named the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill represents a 353 page long proposal that President Biden introduced to the Congress for approval. While this bill has been praised by progressives and immigration advocates, it is doubtful that the entire bill will be signed into law. Specifically, it is unknown at this point whether the provision of the bill that provides an eight-year path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants, Dreamers, TPS recipients will pass the Congress. If passed, the provision will allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. prior to January 1, 2021, to first obtain a work permit and then, after five years, apply for a green card if they pass background checks and pay taxes. After holding their green card for three years and passing additional background checks, they could apply for US citizenship. The same provision also states that immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Temporary Protected Status, as well as farmworkers, would be able to apply for green cards immediately. It should be noted that the bill is still a proposal and to become a law it should be passed by both chambers of the Congress – House of Representatives and the Senate – and signed into law by President Joe Biden. However, the immigration advocates predicts that the following important parts of the bill will become a law in the nearest future:
Updating the family-based immigration
The law will eliminate the so-called ‘3 and 10-year bars, and other provisions that keep families apart. It would lift the restrictions that prevent people who have been present in the US without authorization for more than six months from reentering the country for a period of three to 10 years. Many of those immigrants would be eligible to apply for legal status, often through a US citizen spouse or a spouse who holds a green card.
The number of family-based green cards would be significantly increased, and per-country quotas would be expanded. Beneficiaries of approved I-130 family-based visa petitions would be allowed to join their family members and work in the U.S. in non-immigrant visa status while they wait for their priority dates to become current.
Beneficiaries with an approved visa petition who has been waiting in line for over 10 years for their priority date to become current would no longer be subject to numerical limits. They would be permitted to apply for a green card immediately. This would become effective 60 days after the bill is signed into law.
The bill explicitly includes permanent partnerships provision eliminating discrimination facing by LGBTQ families. It would permit “permanent partners” who are unable to marry in their countries to sponsor their beneficiaries.
The number of green cards available to winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery would be increased from 55,000 to 80,000 annually.
Updating the employment- based immigration:
The number of green cards available in the EB categories would be increased from 140,000 to 170,000 annually. The additional 30,000 green cards would be added to the EB-3 unskilled worker category.
Similar to family-based petitions, beneficiaries of approved visa petitions who have been waiting in line for over 10 years for their priority date to become current would be permitted to apply for a green card immediately. This would become effective 60 days after the bill is signed into law.
Persons with Ph.D. degrees from U.S. universities in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) would be exempt from numerical limits.
This is a very important provision that needs to be passed– H-4 children would be protected from “aging-out” by freezing their ages on the date that the PERM application was filed with DOL or, if no PERM application was required, on the date that the visa petition was filed with USCIS.
DHS would be given the authority to establish a 5-year pilot program to allow county or municipal executives to petition for up to 10,000 immigrant visas annually to support the region’s economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify that there are available job and that there are no U.S. workers to fill them. DHS and DOL would be permitted to issue regulations to temporarily halt the issuance of EB2 and EB3 green cards in areas of high unemployment.
Updating Temporary Visas
DHS and DOL would be given the authority issue a regulation to prioritize the order in which H1B visa applicants are selected based on the wages offered by employers.
Work authorization (EADs) would be granted to H-4 spouses and children.
F-1 student visas would be reclassified as “dual intent” visas. F-1 students with OPT who are in the green card process would be able to renew their EADs in one-year increments if they have a pending PERM application which was applied for before one year of the expiration of their F-1 status, or they have pending or approved I-140. They will no longer need to obtain H-1B status.
Would permit the extension of F-1, H-1B, L-1, and O-1 status in one-year increments if the person has a PERM application which has been pending for more than one year or has a pending or approved I-140 visa petition.
The annual cap on U visas would be raised from 10,000 to 30,000.
Would protect immigrants who report unfair labor practices.
The official summary of the bill can be found at: