Biden’s Immigration Plan – How Will it Affect You?
On his first day in office as President, Joe Biden sent a proposed immigration bill to Congress. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a key component of Biden’s immigration plan.
This act seeks to cut waiting times for visas, increase the numbers of visas in certain categories, and provide a path to permanent residence for millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Some of the key elements of the bill include:
How Biden’s Immigration Plan Provides A Pathway to Citizenship
The bill, if passed, would allow millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States to apply for legal status by creating a new immigrant classification: Lawful Prospective Immigrant (LPI) status.
This status will allow currently undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. Applicants would have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence after five years, and citizenship three years after that. This would be the first time since the Immigration and Nationality Act was amended in 1998 to eliminate Section 254i, the provision that allowed certain individuals who had entered the country illegally to apply for permanent residence if certain conditions were met.
The Biden proposal would allow all undocumented immigrants who were present in the United States after January 1, 2021 to apply for legal status, even if they do not have qualifying family members to sponsor them. Since Section 254i was only applicable to immigrants who had immediate relatives in the United States to sponsor them, the Biden proposal would be a groundbreaking departure from current and past immigration law, and would benefit an estimated 10 million to 12 million individuals.
The proposed law would increase per-country visa caps, helping to reduce current backlogs and decreasing waiting times for visas. It would also allow people who are on waiting lists for visas to join their sponsoring family members in the United States while waiting for visa numbers to become available. Currently, many family-based visa applicants have to wait for ten years or more to join their relatives.
Biden’s immigration plan would also eliminate per-country caps on employment-based visas, helping to reduce waiting times for workers. The bill will also increase immigration opportunities for people with degrees in STEM fields by eliminating jobs in those fields from the employment visa caps.
The bill would increase the number of Diversity visas issued each year from 55,000 to 80,000.
Three and Ten Year Bars
Under the current law, anyone who leaves the United States after residing in the country without lawful status for a period of 180 days or more is barred from re-entering the country for three years. For those who have resided in the country without lawful status for a year or more, the bar is ten years.
These three and ten year bars discourage people who are ineligible for adjustment of status from traveling to their home countries to apply for visas. The Biden bill would eliminate these bars.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and is currently under consideration. If passed, it will be the most comprehensive immigration reform since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996. We will continue to monitor the bill as it works its way through Congress, and will post updates as we get them.