Sweeping immigration reform bills were introduced in the House and Senate last week. Based on the priorities outlined by President Joseph Biden on his first day in office, the U.S. Citizenship Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for nearly all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, while increasing legal immigration, addressing the root causes of migration and expediting consideration for asylum seekers. The legislation faces an uphill battle, which may lead Congressional Democrats to pursue piecemeal legislation. But as it stands now, below is a breakdown of how the bill would benefit certain categories of immigrants.
Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status
The centerpiece of the legislation is an eight-year earned path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants who were in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2021. Those individuals who pass criminal and national security background checks and who pay their taxes would be eligible to apply for “lawful prospective immigrant” (LPI) status under the bill. Eligible immigrants with LPI status would be allowed to remain in the country lawfully for six years, during which time they could work and travel internationally, provided they do not spend more than 180 days outside the U.S. in any given year. If LPI status holders continue to meet the requirements, they would be eligible to apply to adjust their status to become permanent residents after five years. Further, after holding a green card for three years, they could apply for citizenship.
Agricultural Workers Adjustment Act
Undocumented agricultural workers who meet certain requirements and their families would be eligible to apply for green cards immediately under the Agricultural Workers Adjustment Act, which is part of the bill. In addition to passing background checks, workers must have been present in the country since Jan. 1, 2021 and must be able to prove they performed agricultural labor or services for at least 2,300 hours or 400 work days in the five years immediately preceding their application. After they have permanent residence status for three years, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The Dream Act
Like farm workers, undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and who have protection under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would have an expedited path to permanent residency and citizenship. Under the Dream Act, young people could apply for green cards immediately and for citizenship after three years, provided they meet certain requirements. In addition to passing background checks, applicants must establish that they were brought to the U.S. when they were under age 18 and that they hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additionally, they must show that they completed at least two years of college or obtained a recognized credential from a trade school, served honorably in the military for at least two years, or earned income for periods totaling at least three years and 75 percent of the time that they had valid employment authorization.
The American Promise Act
More than 400,000 people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or deferred enforced departure would be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence right away under the American Promise Act. TPS is granted to nationals of certain countries (or parts of those countries) whose conditions prohibit their safe return. The countries currently designated for TPS are El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. To be eligible to apply for a green card, TPS holders must meet certain requirements, including background checks, and must have been in the U.S. continuously since Jan. 1, 2017.
Bolour/Carl Immigration Group is a full-service immigration law firm. If you would like to speak to an immigration attorney about how the U.S. Citizenship Act will impact you, your family or your employees, contact us at 323-857-0034 or firstname.lastname@example.org.