Immigration Reform Bill Summary: Pt 1 of 229 Apr 2013
There has been significant news coverage regarding the introduction of S.744, a comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill titled the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.” This two-part article updates MurthyDotCom readers on the status of this proposed CIR legislation and provides a summary of some of the bill’s key provisions.
Status of Senate Bill 744
After introduction in the Senate on April 16, 2013, S. 744 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. As expected, the Committee immediately began holding hearings to debate and hear testimony regarding this legislative proposal. Those who wish to follow this bill more closely may do so through THOMAS, a website operated by the Library of Congress that serves as an online database of congressional legislation. More details regarding the hearings are available on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website. And, of course, MurthyDotCom will continue to update readers as the bill moves its way through the legislative process.
Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) Category
A great deal of the controversy surrounding CIR efforts involves questions regarding the treatment of undocumented foreign nationals. S.744, if enacted, would create an immigration benefit known as Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status for certain undocumented foreign nationals present in the United States. Only foreign nationals who have continuously resided in the U.S. since December 31, 2011 or earlier would be eligible for RPI status.
RPI status would be granted for six years, with the ability to renew if certain conditions are met. RPIs would be permitted to work and travel. After ten years in RPI status, these individuals would be eligible to apply for permanent residence under a merit-based system of eligibility.
Among the many restrictions attached to this category are provisions that would exclude various classes of foreign nationals from obtaining this immigration benefit, including those who have committed certain crimes or who fall within established inadmissibility grounds for security, public health, or similar reasons. In addition, RPI applicants would be required to demonstrate knowledge of civics, the ability to read and speak English, and evidence of having paid all taxes owed.
Provisions for Undocumented Foreign Nationals Tied to Security
The implementation of the RPI provisions would be tied to the completion of a series of border security measures. Unlike many prior proposals, in addition to establishing border security measures and providing related funding, S. 744 would establish goals and effectiveness rates that would have to be met at the U.S./ Mexico border before any foreign national may be granted RPI status.
No Permanent Residence for RPI Until Backlogs Cleared
Of interest to many MurthyDotCom readers, individuals in RPI status would not be able to apply for green cards until the priority dates become current for all those currently waiting for permanent residence based upon family and/or employment filings. To that end, the proposed bill would make some significant changes in the family and employment-based categories in order to eliminate the current, extremely lengthy backlogs.
Proposed Family-Based Changes
In the family-based categories, the bill proposes various substantive changes that would serve to expand eligibility in some cases, but reduce or eliminate eligibility in others. For instance, the definition of immediate relative would be changed to include children and spouses of permanent residents, in effect removing the numerical visa limit for this category. However, the category for siblings of U.S. citizens, FB4, would be eliminated altogether.
Proposed Employment-Based Changes
One significant change in the bill would exempt derivative family members from the annual limits on employment-based immigration. Visa number exemptions would also apply to the EB1 category and to certain physicians and PhD holders.
If this legislation were to be enacted, additional visa numbers would be reallocated to those with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). There are also provisions in this bill aimed at fostering startup companies and allocating visas to foreign entrepreneurs.
The bill would eliminate the Diversity Lottery. It would create a merit-based green card system. The bill would also make some important changes to the H1B program, and add various employer-related enforcement provisions. These changes will be discussed further in Part 2 of this article from the Murthy Law Firm.
MurthyDotCom readers are reminded that this bill is merely a proposal at this stage. At the time of this writing, there have not yet been any changes in the law as a result of this bill. Even if CIR is ultimately passed, there will be much more debate and, in all likelihood, amendments and other modifications to the bill during the legislative process. In the meantime, it is important to continue to comply with current immigration laws and to plan one’s immediate future based on existing laws.
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