FOR INFORMATION PURPOSE ONLY. THERE ARE NO NEW IMMIGRATION LAWS IN EFFECT YET.
The “Gang of Eight” in the Senate finally made public today the immigration reform bill on which they have been tirelessly working. The bill is 844 pages long and is called Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.
The bill will be analyzed in much more detail over the coming months, but here are some keys aspects of the proposal:
1. The pathway to citizenship will be 13 years. Undocumented immigrants who can prove continuous presence in the country before December 31, 2011 will be eligible to adjust their status. They must have “clean” records (which remains to be fully defined) and pay taxes and a $500 fine, in addition to any fees (imposed by Department of Homeland Security). Then they can apply for “Registered Provision Immigrant” (RPI) status.
2. People with RPI status can live and work legally in the U.S., and travel outside the country. Another $500 fine will kick in after six years as am RPI. After 10 years, an RPI may apply for a green card if they know English, pay taxes, and pay a $1,000 fine. It will take an additional three years for a green card to be converted into citizenship. However, these provisions are all dependent upon the Department of Homeland Security meeting its border security goals.
3. Some deportees will be allowed to legally re-enter the U.S. Undocumented immigrants who were here before December 31, 2011 and were deported for non-criminal reasons can apply to re-enter the country if they are the spouse or a parent of a citizen or lawful permanent resident.
4. The family-based visa allocation system will be modified. Citizens will no longer be able to petition for visas for their siblings (brothers or sisters, currently the Fourth Preference category). The current V-visa program will expand to cover sponsorship of single adult children and married adult children under age 31.
5. The Diversity Visa Lottery program will be eliminated.
6. No provisions for immigration benefits for same-sex couples.
7. The number of H1B visas will be increased. H1B visas are for workers with college degrees or in skilled occupations. Currently, they are capped at 65,000 per year, with an additional exemption of 20,000 for people with advanced degrees. The Senate plan raises the yearly cap to 110,000, and the advanced degree exemption to 25,000. To prevent employers from seeking to undercut American workers, employers will be required to pay H1B workers higher wages.
8. The Senate bill also proposes significant changes to the detention, bond, and stipulated removal provisions in the current immigration laws. For a thorough summary of these proposals, check out this post by Mark Noferi.
9. DREAMers and agricultural workers will have a shorter path to citizenship than the people who will otherwise have to follow the 13-year path to citizenship. People who were brought illegally to the U.S as children and would otherwise qualify for the DREAM Act can obtain green cards in five years (and are exempted from the $500 fine). They will then be eligible for citizenship immediately. The Senate plan also includes the AgJobs Act, which will allow current agricultural workers to obtain legal status through the Agricultural Card Program.
10. There will be a new visa category, called the W-visa. The W- Visa will cover people working in the service sectors as well as agriculture. Employers can petition the government to allow 20,000 such workers beginning in 2015, with this number rising as high as 75,000 within four years (The construction industry is limited to 15,000 workers a year). W-visa holders can move to other employers if they choose, and will be eligible for residency and citizenship.
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