Today, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (Calif.-38) introduced President Biden’s plans for immigration reform. To be clear, this is a plan, nothing is law yet and we still need to wait before we can move forward with applications and relief, but now we know what this Administration’s goals are. Here are some highlights of what’s included in the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021:
- Creation of a new new “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” status, or “LPI.” This status would be valid for 6 years and after 5 years, the person could apply for their green card. To be eligible, the person must have been in the U.S. since at least January 1, 2021. If someone was in the U.S. for at least three years and was deported under the Trump Administration, they may still be eligible for LPR status. Certain crimes will disqualify people from LPI.
- Some people may be able to skip LPI status and apply immediately for a green card. This includes:
- Dreamers (anyone who entered the U.S. prior to their 18th birthday and before January 1, 2021) – so this goes way beyond DACA.
- TPS/DED, if they meet the LPI criteria and have been present in the US since January 1, 2017.
- Agricultural workers , if they meet LPI requirements and have done 2300 work hours (400 work days) of agricultural labor.
- Repealing the 3/10 year bars and the permanent bar. Right now, millions of people cannot obtain their green cards or immigrant visas because they overstayed a visa by more than six months or because they left the U.S. for a few days to visit a sick family member and then returned without permission. Removing these bars will allow families to stay together without the fear of immigration ripping them apart hanging over them.
- Strengthening humanitarian immigration by repealing the one-year bar for asylum, allowing asylum seekers to apply for work authorization earlier, upping the U visa cap from 10,000 per to year to 30,000 and creating a way for U visa applicants to receive work authorization faster.
- Naturalization qualifications could change. Instead of most people having to wait 5 years after obtaining LPR status, they may be able to apply after 3 years. The English requirement would be waived for senior citizens and graduates of U.S. high schools would not have to take the civics examination.
- The term “conviction” will be redefined. If a charge was dismissed, vacated, deferred, or expunged, it will no longer count as a conviction under immigration law – opening opportunities for residency and citizenship.
- Join our listserve! We are asking people to provide us with their names and emails so that when we have solid news that we can act on, we can share it with you. It’s three questions and we promise only to use this information to inform you about any potential updates to immigration law and policy. Sign up here!
- Collect paperwork to show how long you’ve been in the United States. This can be a variety of things, but can include leases, pay statements, medical records, school transcripts.
- If you have a criminal conviction (yes, even a misdemeanor), talk with a criminal defense attorney about post-conviction relief. If the conviction can be dismissed, vacated, deferred or expunged, and future immigration application process will be made much easier.
If you want this bill to pass, you have to let your elected representatives know. It’s not scary to call or email them – I promise! If you’re in Georgia – contact
- Senator Jon Ossoff, 202-224-3521, https://www.ossoff.senate.gov/contact/contact-form/
- Senator Raphael Warnock, 202-224-3643, https://www.warnock.senate.gov/
- Find your Representative at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative
After the last four years, it’s hard to have hope, but I do have hope that we will get positive changes that will change lives. It will take some time and I know we won’t get everything we want, but wow…let’s do our best to make as much of this a reality as possible. We can do this!