US Immigration Bill Goes Before Congress

The Biden Administration’s US Citizenship Act of 2021 was formally introduced in Congress on February 18, 2021.

Covering a wide range of policy reforms, the Immigration Bill has been put forward to create an infrastructure in line with Biden’s vision of a more compassionate and fair approach to immigration.

In brief, provisions include:

  • Creating a new path to US citizenship.
  • Clearing the employment-based and family-based green card backlogs.
  • Expanding benefits for certain nonimmigrants seeking permanent residence.
  • Streamlining the process for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to obtain permanent residence.
  • Increasing in Diversity Lottery Visas.

Before it can be enshrined in law, the bill must first pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate, before being signed by President Biden.

Given the breadth of the reforms, extensive debate and amendment are anticipated.

We summarise some of the proposed changes:

Economic stimulus pilot

A pilot is being proposed to stimulate regional economic development. This would also see authorization for up to 10,000 additional immigrants per year whose employment is deemed essential to economic development in their communities.

H-4 employment authorization

The bill proposes to extend H-4 employment authorization to all H-4 spouses and children of H-1B workers.

Work visa numbers distributed by wage

A wage offered by the employer would be used by the DHS to prioritize the distribution of H-1B and potentially other nonimmigrant employment-based visas.

Lower employment-based green cards in response to economic conditions

The bill proposes to provide DHS with authority to lower the number of employment-based green cards (2nd and 3rd preference) in response to high unemployment.

Nonimmigrant status while in the green card process

H-1B extension eligibility would be expanded for I-140 immigrant visa petition beneficiaries. The bill would also see provision to prevent the ‘aging out’ of some H-4 children applying for a Green Card with an H-1B parent.

Extensions of F-1, H-1B, L-1, and O-1 status in one-year increments would also be allowed if the foreign national has a labor certification or I-140 immigrant visa petition pending for over a year.

Additional employer penalties for labor law violations

An additional civil penalty would be introduced for employer violations of US labor laws in relation to unauthorized workers.

The bill also seeks recommendations from the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor for improving the employment eligibility verification process and providing protections to foreign workers affected by labor violations.

Reduce immigrant visa backlogs

A number of provisions are put forward to reduce immigrant visa backlogs,recapture unused immigrant visa numbers from past years, and eliminate per-country employment-based (EB) immigrant visa (IV) caps.

Path to US citizenship

The bill features a new 8-year route to Green Card and citizenship for millions of qualifying undocumented foreign nationals, deferred DACA ‘dreamers’, those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and H-2A status.

Under the bill, undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for legalization if they were in the United States on or before January 1, 2021, pay all required fees and taxes, and do not have a criminal record, although waivers would be available for certain nonviolent crimes.

They would first need to secure lawful prospective immigrant status (LPI) before applying for legal permanent residence after a five years. After three years with a Green Card, they may be eligible to naturalize as a US citizen.

US immigration advice

NNU Immigration are a team of London-based US immigration attorneys. We are advising employers, entrepreneurs, investors, workers and other non-US nationals planning to travel or relocate to the US on the changes in US immigration policy and immigration rules under the new Administration. Please contact our US immigration specialists for the latest advice for your specific circumstances.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.