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29Sep, 14

Vijay Bhagwati, Esq.

Comprehensive immigration reform is a systematic overhaul of the country’s immigration laws with a stated objective to keep checks and balances into our immigration framework.
            As per the opinion held by experts and analysts who work on immigration policy, currently 12 million people are living and working in the United States without legal status.  It is, therefore, not hard to believe that the mass deportation of such a large undocumented population is virtually impossible.  The Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill of 2013 includes sweeping changes in treatment of both existing undocumented workers and aspiring immigrants.
            Amongst vast array of proposals some of the key elements of Comprehensive Immigration Reform are as under?
            Undocumented immigrant who;

(i)        arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011,

(ii)       haven’t committed a felony (or three misdemeanors),

(iii)    hold a job, and;

(iv)     pay a $500 fine and back taxes,
            will immediately gain the status of “registered provisional,” allowing them to legally stay in the United States without risk of deportation. Registered provisionals wouldn’t be able to get any means-tested public benefits. Those who have already been deported would be eligible to apply to re-enter if their parent or child is a UScitizen or permanent resident, or if they were eligible under DREAM act and were deported as a minor.
             If the undocumented aliens have fulfilled requirements as laid under Comprehensive Immigration Reform by registering with the government, undergoing background checks in order to qualify for the program, created a record of paying taxes, possessed no criminal record, payed fines and fees as decided by Congress and learnt English; such registered individuals and their immediate family members would be allowed to apply for legal status and become legal permanent residents and eventually U.S. citizens. Those who do not qualify would go through regular removal procedures.
          Comprehensive Immigration Reform requires that after six years, you’d have to renew the status, which is dependent on;

(i)       maintaining a steady work history,

(ii)      having a clean criminal record, and;

(iii)     paying another $500 fine.
            Four years after that (10 years after initially attaining “registered provisional” status), you could apply for permanent residency (Green Card).
This would require showing;

(i)       constant work history,

(ii)      constant presence in the United States,

(iii)    continuous tax payments,

(iv)    clean criminal record,

(v)     knowledge of English and civics and;

(vi)     paying another $1,000 fine.
          Three years after that you’d be eligible to become a UScitizen. So under Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the recognition-to-citizenship process would take a total of 13 years and require $2,000 in fines from each undocumented alien so affected.
Who would be eligible for a faster path to GC and Citizenship?
            Those who became eligible under DREAM Act if they entered illegally before the age of 16, graduated from high school, and have been in the United States for at least five years see a quicker path to citizenship. They would be able to apply for US permanent residency after five years and US citizenship immediately thereafter, provided they serve two years in the military or complete at least two years of college.
            Agricultural workers also would get a chance at Green Cards after five years, but would not be immediately eligible for citizenship, unlike DREAMers.
Family-Based Immigrants:
The proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill proposes to move the current FB-2A (Family Based-2A) category into the immediate relative classification which would make visas immediately available to spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents.  It would also allow for derivatives of immediate relatives to come in immediately and eliminate the FB-4 category (brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens).  This would mean that if the petition has not yet been filed for brother or a sister by a UScitizen, that category will cease to exist. It also provides for a US Citizen parent to file petition for a married son or a daughter before he/she turns 31 years of age. It would cap the age of eligibility of married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens at age 31 and also bring back the V visa (a visa that used to be issued to spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents to use to join their family in the U.S. while waiting for their visa priority date).
H-1B visa
            Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill proposes to increase the number of H1-B visas, which are designed for high-skilled workers, from 65,000 to at least 110,000, and up to 180,000 depending on employer demand. Employers who use H1-B visa holders for 30 percent or more of their workforce would have to pay new fees. Employers who count H1-B holders as more than 75 percent of their workforce would be banned from hiring more foreign workers starting in 2014. That percentage cutoff would drop to 65 percent in 2015 and 50 percent in 2016.
            The proposed bill proposes to raise the advanced degree cap to 25,000 and mandates all H1B employers to conduct recruitment process before filing petition to show that they can’t find any US citizen suitable for the work. Certain H-4 beneficiaries will also be eligible to apply for EAD to work in United States.The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill provides for 60 day grace period to transfer job to another H-1B employer.
Exempt from quotas:
            Currently there are 140000 people who can come in USA on quota and significant number of that is consumed by derivative beneficiaries. The proposed exemption from quota is expected to give rise to quota numbers. The exempt groups are “derivative beneficiaries of employment-based immigrants; aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; multinational executives and managers; doctoral degree holders in STEM fields; and physicians who have completed the foreign residency requirements or have received a waiver.”
W visa
            A new “W-visa” program for low-skilled guest workers, capped at 20,000, would start in 2015. The cap would rise to 75,000 by 2019. Immigrants would apply at U.S. embassies and consulates in their home countries, and would stay in three-year renewable stints along with their families. If they are unemployed for 60 days or more they would be required to leave the United States. The workers must be paid the prevailing wage and cannot be employed in metropolitan areas where unemployment is above 8.5 percent barring special exemptions from the Secretary of Homeland Security. Employers cannot fire American workers 90 days before or after the hiring of guest workers.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill proposes to eliminate the one-year filing deadline. This would entitle those people who didn’t get to file for asylum in the past will be able to re-open their cases.
The Diversity Visa
            The Diversity Visa, which uses a lottery to distribute 55,000 permanent resident visas every year to natives of countries with low rates of immigration to the United States doesn’t find any support under Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  The Diversity Visa would be eliminated starting in 2015. It would be replaced with a merit-based system using a mix of family ties, work history in the United States and strength of work skills. Initially, it would be 120,000 visas per year and then grow to a maximum 250,000, growing by 5 percent every year.
What you can do to take benefit if Comprehensive Immigration Reform becomes the law.
            It is better to prepare well in advance to form part of all eligible undocumented aliens under Comprehensive Immigration Reform. As a first step, you must retain all documentary evidence of your presence in the United States. You must have a certificate of disposition. If you don’t have one, you can have it from the clerk’s office of the county where you were arrested. You must file taxes for each year of your stay in this country. If the taxes haven’t been filed, contact a certified public accountant for help. In addition, an effort must be made to learn English.

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