President Biden has signified since the first day of his presidency that immigration reform will be a high priority for his administration. The president has signed several executive orders and submitted a bill to Congress known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 that includes a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. On February 18, this bill was formally introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. While passage of the bill is far from assured, its effects will be far-reaching if it is passed.
If passed, the bill would allow undocumented immigrants who have been present in the U.S. starting on or before January 1, 2021 to apply for lawful prospective immigrant status. In order to qualify, applicants would need to pass a background check and pay necessary taxes and fees. Once granted, the status would last for up to six years, and could be renewed for additional terms.
Lawful prospective immigrants who maintain their status and continuous residence in the U.S. for at least five years would also be able to apply for an adjustment of status to obtain a green card and become a lawful permanent resident. After three years as a lawful permanent resident in good standing, they could then apply for naturalized U.S. citizenship following the procedure currently in place, including an interview and an English language and civics test. The bill also proposes increased funding for programs that help immigrants who want to achieve citizenship.
Certain undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status immediately, rather than having to wait five years as a lawful prospective immigrant. This would include those protected by the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) policy, otherwise known as Dreamers, who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday. It would also include those who can demonstrate a substantial history of agricultural or farm work in the United States.
In addition to the pathway to lawful permanent residence and citizenship, the U.S. Citizenship Act would also bring other changes to federal immigration law. For example, the bill proposes replacing the term “alien” with “non-citizen” in all immigration statutes, and increasing caps on certain types of family, humanitarian, and employment-based visas. It would also include funding for technology and infrastructure to promote safety and security at the U.S.-Mexico border.
At Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices, we can help you and your family in your pursuit of lawful permanent resident status or citizenship, and we will help you understand how any new laws or policy changes may affect your case. For a free consultation with an Illinois immigration lawyer, contact us today at 630-932-9100.
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