January 28, 2021

Highlights of President Biden’s U.S. Immigration Reform Bill

President Biden has announced key points of a proposed comprehensive U.S. immigration reform plan. Changes are proposed in several core areas, including routes to permanent residence and citizenship, and employment- and family-based immigration. It is also expected to contain provisions to improve immigration-related technology for enhanced border protection, expand certain types of visa caps and address some of the underlying conditions driving migration out from Central America.

The bill will need to be presented to Congress and approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before it can become law.

What We Know Now

Biden’s proposed immigration reform bill is expected to present a path for eligible undocumented foreign nationals, including those holding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or H-2A status, to acquire permanent residence and citizenship. Individuals within these categories would be able to apply for a residence permit immediately if they were present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021. Once they have received permanent residence documents (green cards), they can apply for citizenship after three years if they meet security and background check and language requirements. Other categories of undocumented foreign nationals present in the U.S. on or before January 1 this year would also be permitted to apply immediately for temporary legal status. After five years in this temporary status, they would then be eligible to apply for permanent residency if they also pass security and background checks and can prove payment of U.S. taxes. After an additional three years, they would be permitted to apply for citizenship, provided they continue meet the security and language requirements. There may also be provisions made for individuals removed during the Trump administration but who were present in the U.S. for three years prior to their removal.

Biden’s reform plan also features mechanisms to clear the backlog of green card submissions for employment-based and family-based applicants and systems for keeping families together during processing times.

Perhaps of greatest interest to the global mobility community, the bill is also expected to contain provisions that aim to clear employment-based immigration visa backlogs, recapture unused visas, reduce lengthy permanent residence wait times and eliminate per-country immigrant visa caps. It proposes the creation of a pilot program to help stimulate regional economic development, and giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to adjust green card volumes based on macroeconomic conditions, as well as incentivizing higher wages for non-immigrant high-skilled visas. The DHS and Department of Labor would also be tasked with making recommendations to improve the employment eligibility verification process and protection of foreign nationals affected by labor violations.

The reforms are also expected to allow for LGBTQ+ petitioners to sponsor family members.

Finally, the proposed bill includes such additional provisions as: increasing the number of green cards available under the Diversity Lottery Visa Program, barring the U.S. president from discriminating based on religion in issuing immigration bans, and further humanitarian reforms, including the elimination of the one-year deadline for filing an asylum claim.

We will continue to carefully monitor and inform you of immigration changes and developments as the legislation makes its way through the Congressional review processes.

In the meantime, should you have any questions or require further information on the expected changes in President Biden’s immigration reform bill, please please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.

Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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