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Biden’s immigration bill: who benefits?

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2021 - 12:00am

It’s official: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president, and the Trump era of strict immigration enforcement and demonizing of immigrants is now over. We look forward to positive changes in immigration laws, and President Biden has now submitted his proposed immigration reforms to Congress, entitled “The US Citizenship Act of 2021.”

But first a word of caution: this is only a proposal. It must pass both the House and Senate, and be signed by the President. This bill could be subject to change, such as amendments, deletions, etc. Therefore, there is nothing to apply for or file until it becomes law.

It is a lengthy bill, with numerous provisions, but here are some of the highlights of the bill in its present form:

• Replaces the word “alien” with “noncitizen” in US immigration laws.

• Immediate green cards for DACA and TPS. They could be eligible for US citizenship three years later.

• 8-year pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. It requires registering with the US government, background checks, payment of back taxes, proof the person was in the US as of Jan. 1, 2021. Thereafter, they apply for a green card after five years, and US citizenship three years later.  You should already gather documents now to show you were in the US and keep them safe, such as bank accounts, rental agreements, phone bills, etc.

• Allows certain immigrants who were deported but had been living in the US for at least three years to return to the US to be reunited with their families. It would depend on the reasons they were deported. If they had committed felonies, they may not be eligible.

• “Recaptures” unused visas from prior years. Before, if the allotment of annual visas weren’t issued, they were lost. Like a phone plan with no roll-over minutes.

• Increases the number of visas available for family petitions so that more family members can immigrate.

• Eliminates per-country allotment of visas for employment-based petitions, and instead allocates visas on a first come, first served basis, based on the person’s priority date. This could benefit people from India and China where there was a long line or backlog but may cause people from other countries, such as the Philippines to wait longer.

• Won’t count derivative spouses and children of persons being petitioned through employment against the annual allotment or quota of employment-based visas. This could increase the number of visas available for employment-based petitions. Before, if a worker had a spouse and three children, that would count as five visas being used up. Now, only the worker is counted and the family members will not reduce the number of employment-based visas.

• Provides for work permits for the spouses and children of temporary work visa holders, like H-4 spouses of H-1B visa holders.

• Will end the 3/10-year bar for people who have overstayed. Therefore, they may no longer need the provisional waiver.

• Will clear the visa backlogs for family and employment-based cases. This could mean that the government will infuse thousands and thousands of additional visas so that the current lines or waiting times are eliminated.

• Increases the number of immigration judges to reduce backlogs in immigration courts.

Many people in the US are unable to apply for green cards under existing programs, such as family petitions or employment sponsorship, because they are out of status. Instead, they are required to return to their home countries. Therefore, even if you are under petition by a family member or employer, you should consider this as an option, if it becomes law. Under immigration law, a person can be petitioned in as many different ways as are available, all at the same time.

Amnesty and immigration reform is a developing story, and there will be much more to report as the bill winds its way through Congress. I will provide updates on the details on who is included, what are requirements, etc. So stay tuned.

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WEBSITE: www.gurfinkel.com

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JOE BIDEN KAMALA HARRIS
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