Joseph R. Biden was sworn into office on January 20th, 2021, as the 46th president of the United States. President Biden and his administration have made it very clear before inauguration day that one of his main priorities over the first 100 days of his term would be immigration reform. This proved to be true as he sent his highly anticipated immigration reform bill to Congress on the first day of his presidency. The bill has been named "The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021" and has been described as “the Biden plan for securing our values as a nation of immigrants.” The goal of this legislation is to modernize the U.S. immigration system by providing an eight-year pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented immigrants as well as prioritizing keeping families together, managing border security, and refining areas of immigration from family-based petitions to humanitarian protections. If passed by Congress, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would be the largest overhaul of immigration reform seen in several years.
Permanent Residency and Citizenship Reform
One of the main focuses of the proposed legislation is to provide a pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented immigrants. Eligible individuals will be placed on an eight-year roadmap towards citizenship starting with an application for temporary legal status. This will then give you the ability to apply for a green card after five years if you pay taxes and pass additional national security and criminal background checks. After three years of being a green card holder, you may apply for naturalization and become a United States citizen if all requirements are met.
It is important to note that to be eligible, all applicants must be physically present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021. The Department of Homeland Security may waive this requirement for individuals who were deported on or before January 20, 2017, and were physically present in the U.S. for at least three years before removal. The bill also intends to change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws as a further effort to recognize America as a nation of immigrants.
Employment-Based Immigration Reform
The proposed reform bill also intends to clear employment-based visa backlogs, reduce wait times for permanent residency applications, recaptured unused visas, and remove per-country visa caps. Additionally, the bill would allow dependents of H-1B visa holders to apply for work authorization and prevent children who benefit as dependents of their parents from being disqualified from immigration benefits after turning 21.
Family-Based Immigration Reform
Family-based immigrant visa backlogs could be cleared and wait times could be reduced. Similarly, unused visas would be recaptured, and per-country visa caps increased. The bill would also include a provision to remove the three- and ten-year bars for unlawfully present immigrants in the U.S. The bill also intends to keep families together by allowing foreign nationals with approved family-based petitions to join their family in the U.S. while their green card becomes available.
The bill includes numerous provisions that will expand family case management programs, reducing backlogs for immigration court, expansion of training programs for immigration judges, and improving the technology used in immigration court. There is also a “No Ban Act” that prohibits a president from discriminating against religion in issuing future bans. Diversity Visas are set to be increased to 80,000 from 50,000. Humanitarian reform programs are planning to be implemented to eliminate the one-year deadline for asylum claims and to increase the U-Visa cap to 30,000 from 10,000. Lastly, an inter-agency plan would be created to confront the underlying causes of migration from Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras by increasing assistance to reduce corruption, violence, and poverty.
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If you or a loved one has encountered any immigration issues or wishes to change your immigration status, call Hubbs Law Firm. Our lawyers can handle even the most complex immigration and deportation cases. We will remain alert for any updates regarding immigration reform and are prepared to meet the needs of any new or existing client to benefit them following our ever-changing immigration system.
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