A bipartisan group of Senators, known as the “Gang of Eight” introduced their immigration reform proposal, an 844-page document, on April 17. The Obama administration reacted positively to the news that the group introduced the bill and urged the Senate “to quickly move this bill forward” and pledged to “do whatever it takes to make sure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality as soon as possible.” If enacted, up to 11 million of “undocumented” immigrants could apply for a green card after 10 years and for US citizenship three years after that. It would apply to individuals in “unlawful” status who arrived in the US before December 31, 2011, provided they have not committed a felony or three misdemeanors.
These are the key provisions of the bill:
– New Registered Provisional Immigration (“RPI”) Status and a 13-year pathway to citizenship for those who are in the “unlawful” immigration status;
– New categories of visas for foreign investors and entrepreneurs – “start-up” visas;
– New “merit based” visa category;
– New W visa category;
– H-1B Reform and expansion of H-1B quota;
– Elimination of certain family-based immigrant categories;
– Elimination of Diversity Visa (Green Card Lottery) Program
Individuals present in the US in “unlawful” status will be able to apply for the RPI status, provided they entered the US prior to December 31, 2011 and maintained continuous presence since then. Immigrants in RPI status will be able to work for any employer and travel outside of the United States.
Individuals outside of the United States who were previously here before December 31, 2011 and were deported for non-criminal reasons can apply to re-enter the United States in RPI status if they are the spouse, of or parent of a child who is, United States citizen or lawful permanent resident; or are a childhood arrival who is eligible for the DREAM Act.
Those who have been convicted of a felony, 3 or more misdemeanors or a foreign offense will not be eligible for RPI status.
Family Immigration Reform
- Siblings of US Citizens will no longer be able to obtain Green Cards through family petitions
- Immediate relative category will be expanded to include children and spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders).
- Married sons and daughters of US citizens who are 31 years of age or older will not be able to obtain Green Cards through family petitions
H-1B Visa Reform
- Annual quota on H-1B visas will be expanded from 65,000 to 110,000, with a mechanism of adjusting the quota in future years.
- Employers will be required to advertise H-1B positions for 30 days prior to hiring H-1B workers.
- Certain employers will be excluded from the program – unable to sponsor H-1B workers.
- Spouses of H-1B workers will be able to obtain work authorization.
New W-Visa Program for Lower-Skilled Workers
- A new non-immigrant classification, the W-Visa will be created for those who come to the US to perform services or labor for a registered employer in a registered position. The spouses and minor children of the W visa holders will be allowed to accompany the principal visa holder to the US and will be given work authorization for the same period as the W visa holder.
New Merit-based Visa
120,000 visas will be available per year based on merit. Under this category individuals wishing to immigrate to the United States will be awarded points based on their education, employment, length of residence in the US and other considerations. Those with most points will obtain the visas.
Merit-based visas will also be used to eliminate current backlog in certain categories. Beginning in October 2014, merit-based visas will be allocated to employment-based visa petitions that have been pending for three years or more and to family-based petitions that have been pending for five years or more.
A new category of “long-term alien workers” will be also be allocated merit-based visas. This category includes those who have been lawfully present in the US for not less than 10 years and who are not admitted in the W visa category.
Many amendments to the proposal outline above are anticipated in the coming weeks. We will provide updates on the most important developments.
Author: Manvel Vasilyev / Attorney at Law, BridgehouseLaw Charlotte
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