By: Bolaji Queen Adeleye
Associate, Arrington Owoo P.C. –
On February 18, 2021, President Joe Biden’s immigration proposal was introduced to Congress. The bill titled “The United States Citizenship Act, 2021” is described as a beacon of hope for millions of undocumented immigrants and other immigration stakeholders in the United States. This article highlights salient provisions of the immigration bill and provides insights as to how individuals can proactively prepare for the administration of the bill.
PART A: SALIENT PROVISIONS OF THE BILL
Reduced path to citizenship for the undocumented.
The legislation seeks to reduce the time to acquire citizenship to eight (8) years from thirteen (13) years for millions of immigrants already in the country. First, individuals would apply to be in a temporary lawful protected immigrant (LPI) status, after which they become eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status (green card) after five years. After three years of being a permanent resident, they can apply to become citizens.
The bill, if passed, also would remove the word “alien” from US immigration laws, replacing it with the term “noncitizen.” The phrase “illegal alien,” has long been perceived as dehumanizing.
The bill provides funding to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to address administrative burdens which have created a backlog of several immigration applications.
More funding for immigration judges and attorneys
The bill provides funding for more immigration judges and authorizes funding for counsel for children and vulnerable individuals.
Grace to re-enter the U.S. regardless of prior illegal residence.
The measure would also repeal the bars to reentering the United States if an individual had previously been illegally residing in the country.
Encourages immigration from certain countries.
It increases the number of available so-called diversity visas, which are awarded by random selection in select countries to promote immigration from places that do not otherwise send many immigrants to the U.S.
Increase border protection.
The bill proposes a new system to responsibly manage and secure our border, keep our families and communities safe, and better manage migration across the Hemisphere. It authorizes additional funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deploy technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband.
No more numerical caps on visas for persons with doctoral degrees in specific fields.
The bill would exempt individuals with a doctoral degree in a field involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from a U.S institution of higher education from the numerical caps on visas. Additionally, it would exempt students qualified to pursue a full course of study from demonstrating “nonimmigrant intent.”
Lastly, the bill allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
PART B: HOW TO PROACTIVELY GET READY
It is important to proactively prepare for the new law. This can be achieved by gathering birth certificates, tax returns, passports showing entry stamps, visas and other documents that may be needed for your application. Do not wait until the law is passed, you can start now.
As forward thinking as this immigration bill is, there may be potential pitfalls. It will likely be met with vigorous opposition from the Republicans who may balk at the pathway to citizenship provisions and may wish to strengthen its border protection provisions. In the interim, as this bill makes its way through Congress, the Biden administration can focus on removing administrative roadblocks and streamline the processing of applications.