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January 2021

Biden Administration Seeks Immigration Policy Overhaul with U.S. Citizenship Act

Yesterday morning, President Biden announced proposed legislation – soon to be sent to Congress – seeking to overhaul the immigration system in the United States. Named the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the bill sets forth comprehensive reforms to U.S. immigration law with the intention of improving the path to citizenship, employment-based immigration and family-based immigration, as well as the implementation and prioritization of smart integrity measures and solutions for securing our borders.

We have highlighted some of the proposed changes below:

  • The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.

  • Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.

  • The bill clears backlogs, allows for the recapture of unused visas, eliminates lengthy wait times, and increases per-country visa caps. It also eliminates the so-called “3 and 10-year bars,” and other provisions that keep families apart.

  • 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.

  • The bill also increases Diversity Visas to 80,000 from 55,000.

  • The bill clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps. The bill makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States; improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors; and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards. The bill provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and children are prevented from “aging out” of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development, gives DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.

  • The bill eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs. It also increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000. The bill also expands protections for foreign nationals assisting U.S. troops.

While these reforms are still in the proposal stage, they may have an impact on you or your organization’s hiring practices, if adopted. CSG’s Immigration Law Group will continue to keep you timely informed on the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and its provisions as it makes its way through the legislative process.

For more information, please contact your CSG attorney or one of the authors listed below.