US Immigration Overhaul: Citizenship Act of 2021

US Immigration Overhaul: Citizenship Act of 2021

US President Joe Biden has introduced new legislation to reform immigration policies, which intends to increase the number of international specialists in the United States.

President Biden new legislation would help international specialists eventually gain US citizenship, and would enable to roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States to do the same.

The legislation modernises the immigration system and includes provisions to improve visa processing, increase diversity, protect asylum seekers and trafficking victims, enhance labour protections and bolster the economy.

Diversity Visa

The number of visas issued under the diversity immigrant visa program, better known as the green card lottery, could also increase through the Citizenship act, from 55,000 to 80,000. The diversity visa program intends to diversify the immigrant population in the United States by choosing applicants from countries with a low number of immigrants during the past five years. 

President Biden proposes to clear the backlogs, end the long wait times, and increase per-country caps. Since 1990, no country can receive more than 7% of green cards, and this has led to individuals with approved petitions having to wait for up to 20 or 30 years for their visa numbers to become available.

Since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA), people who were unlawfully present in the US for more than 6 months could be barred for 3 years, and people who had over a year of unlawful presence were barred for 10 years. Under the US Citizenship Act of 2021, the bar would be eliminated removing a huge barrier to family reunification. 

Work Visa

About 75% of full-time graduate students in the United States’ universities, in key technology zones, are international students.

The previously proposed rule that required selection of H-1B workers taking into account the highest salary should be frozen until March 21, upon President Biden’s proposal.

The US President also urged to withdraw the rule redefining employer-employee relationship, which was previously proposed by former President Trump.

Trump’s administration changed H-1B visa norms by amending the regulations to prioritise higher wages and skills for choosing candidates.

Dependents of H-1B work visa holders will be allowed to apply for work authorisation, and their children will be prevented from “aging out.” This keeps families together. Previously, children who turned 21 were generally on their own, and could not rely on dependent status from their parents for their immigration status.

Path for naturalisation

President Biden has unveiled hefty immigration reforms that would include providing an eight-year path to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented immigrants if it becomes law.

The sweeping immigration proposal under the US Citizenship Act of 2021 aims to reverse and revise many of former President Donald Trump’s policies

The Biden administration wants to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for the almost 11 million unauthorized people living in the US. 

The citizenship timeline is pretty easy to understand. Those living in the US without legal status as of 1 January 2021 could gain temporary legal status, or a green card, in five years. To do so, they’d need to pass a background check, pay taxes and meet other requirements.

Millions of unauthorized immigrants already pay taxes by using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Workers without legal status generate millions of dollars for Social Security and Medicare, yet they are not eligible for any of the benefits that accompany a social security number.

Going Forward

Biden has merely introduced the bill. To become law, the legislation still needs to move through proper channels. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that Biden’s reform bill is a massive undertaking, but Biden has also said he’s willing to push the bill through Congress in pieces. 

Although President Biden’s immigration proposal was introduced to Congress on the first day of his presidency, it likely will face a long road ahead. The proposed bill has been met with some early criticism, but the president and his allies hope to find common ground and move the legislation forward. 

As part of this common ground, the legislation would seek to increase border security by authorising additional funding “to deploy technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband at every land, air, and seaport of entry.”

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