The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and How it Affects Undocumented Persons in the U.S.
As President Joe Biden takes office, it is expected that he will sign new legislation known as the US Citizenship Act of 2021 that will provide a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. This new bill will create a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, farmworkers, and essential workers who risk their lives to serve America’s communities.
Who qualifies and what does the process look like?
This new bill would allow anyone present in the U.S. on or before January 1st 2021 to qualify for a work permit, and they would be able to travel abroad with the guarantee that they would be allowed reentry. After five years, those who qualify are able to apply for a green card if they pass background checks and pay taxes. However, immigrants covered by DACA, TPS, as well as farmworkers are able to apply for green cards immediately and do not have to wait five years. After holding the green card for three years and passing additional background checks, those who qualify can then apply for citizenship.
What else is included?
This new bill will also remove barriers for family-based immigration, including visa backlogs and employment-based green cards which has been inaccessible for low-wage workers. President Biden’s plan would focus on family reunification and increase the visa program by opening 80,000 spots a year available for visas rather than 55,000 spots available during the Trump Administration. This also strengthens protections for immigrant workers ensuring visas for victims of serious labor violations, such as those who face workplace retaliation from deportation.
President Biden’s bill also targets underlying causes of migration by allocating $4 billion over the four years to address factors and encourage the Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran government to improve living conditions. This bill additionally includes setting up new processing centers throughout the region for qualifying migrants as refugees. It will reinstitute the Central American Minors Program which allows children to join their relatives in the U.S., and it will create a new parole program for U.S. family members sponsoring a relative.
This bill will still need to be approved by Congress, but there is hope for the immigrant community in these next upcoming days. At W&A we frequently guide our clients through the complicated world of immigration law. One of our favorite things to do is help our clients obtain citizenship. We will keep our clients posted on this legislation.
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This Wandro & Associates Update is intended to inform firm clients and friends about legal developments, including recent decisions of various courts and administrative bodies. Nothing in this Practice Update should be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, and readers should not act upon the information contained in this Update without seeking the advice of legal counsel.