Conservatives in the U.S. Senate very much want to seal the border between the United States and Mexico. When that is done, unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. can begin the process of getting green cards. After getting green cards, they can apply for citizenship. That is the heart of the new immigration reform bill.
Border Security. The goal for border security is that 9 out of 10 people illegally trying to reach the U.S. will be turned back at the border. Congress believes this can be done within about five years after the bill becomes law.
E-verify. E-verify is the system employers use to make sure employees are in the country legally. Over the next four years employers must use and will phase in E-verify to check the immigration status of job seekers. This must be accomplished before the Registered Provisional Immigrants program begins.
Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI). After the border security goal is met, most of the undocumented people in the U.S. can look forward to becoming eligible for RPI. It is not clear if this entitles them to driver’s licenses and freedom from deportation over minor crimes.
Visas and Green Cards. About 4.4 million people here legally are waiting for green cards. They come first. People with employment-based visas and family-based visas are eligible for green cards.
Family-based visa preferences will go to unmarried adult children of citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs). All spouses and minor children of LPRs are eligible, as well as the married children of U.S. citizens who file before age 31. The bill ends the preference for siblings.
Dreamers and Agricultural Workers. A version of the Dream Act is part of the bill. To become a Dreamer, young people must follow the rules of the President’s deferred status program. Young people with deferred status can get green cards in 5 years and become eligible for citizenship immediately after gaining a green card.
Agricultural cards can go to workers with “substantial prior commitment” to agricultural work in the US. They can apply for LPR status after 5 years.
Dreamers and agricultural workers do not have to wait until the backlog is cleared.
No immigrants with an RPI status can apply for green cards until all these other visas have been dealt with.
After Processing the waiting line of 4.4 million. The bill generally expands the definition and use of visas based on education and work skills.
After 10 years, immigrants in RPI status may seek LPR status through the merit-based system IF they:
- Maintained continuous physical presence.
- Paid all taxes owed during the RPI period.
- Worked in the United States “regularly”.
- Demonstrated knowledge of civics and English.
- Paid a $1,000 penalty.
It will take up to seven years to process eligible green card applications.
If this sounds confusing, it is. The important thing to remember is that the bill puts millions of people on the road to legal status and citizenship.