The recently introduced Senate legislation, S. 744, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," has been top news lately. I just wanted to explain a bit about what the bill contains as it relates to family immigration.
The two points that I will highlight are the legalization of non-citizens who are present without legal status in the U.S. and the changing of family-based immigration categories:
Legalization: The bill, if passed, will allow noncitizens who are unlawfully present and who entered the U.S. before December 31, 2011 to adjust status to that of Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI). If you are eligible to apply for this process you would be required to pay a penalty and back taxes. The benefits of entering RPI status are that you would receive work authorization and can also travel out of the U.S. After 10 years in RPI status, you would be able to apply to become a green card holder. After being a green card holder for 3 years, you would be eligible for citizenship. There are different provisions for kids that are deffered action for childhood arrivals - eligible, and agricultural workers.
Family-Based Immigrants: The bill will change the current classification system that creates long wait times for families and remove certain family categories from the process all together. Spouses and children of permanent resident will be classified as immediate relatives and not have to wait for an immigrant visa to become available. Also, immediate relatives will be allowed to have derivatives, this means that you can file one form as a US citizen or as a permanent resident to bring your immediate relative and their children. You will not have to file separate forms for each individual relative (ex. spouse and child). Other changes are that it removes the ability for US citizens to apply for their brothers and sisters, it caps the age of eligibility of married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens at age 31, and it reintroduces the V-visa. The V visa is a nonimmigrant visa created to allow families to stay together while waiting for the processing of immigrant visas (if the family member has been waiting for 3 years, they can apply for a visa to come to the US).
This is a step in the right direction for those of us who believe the US immigration system should be more fair. There are some disappointing things in the bill, for example it removes the diversity visa program which has helped many people from around the world and in African countries to immigrate to the US. Although it is not perfect, as someone who works with naturalized citizens and foreign nationals every day and I have both family and clients who have been patiently waiting for some chance at gaining legal status. This bill is just the first step in what will hopefully be a successful process towards immigration reform.
Nothing has been passed yet, but I am a whole-hearted believer that it is never too early to start preparing for what may come. I have a series on preparing for immigration reform which is posted here on the blog. I also am putting together a YouTube video, which I'll place below soon that recaps some steps that you may want to take or have your family members to take to get themselves prepared if the day arrives that this law or a version of it passes.