On August 24, a budget resolution was passed by the U.S. House that allocated nearly $107 billion for immigration reform and similar laws.
The bill was initially passed by the U.S. Senate in early August before being taken to the House. Now that both sides of Congress have passed the bill, it will be signed by President Biden and become law.
While changes have now been made to US immigration laws, it’s important to look at what these changes mean for anyone who wants to gain entry to the US.
Overview of Current Immigration Laws
To fully comprehend what the budget bill’s immigration reform means, you should first understand what the current immigration laws are and what the path to citizenship is.
First of all, you should know that there isn’t a single path to citizenship for immigrants who are entering the U.S. Before someone can become a U.S. citizen, they are first required to become a legal permanent resident, which can be accomplished in a number of ways. Once an individual has become a legal permanent resident, they can obtain a permanent resident card, which is referred to as a green card.
Foreign nationals who live outside of the U.S. can seek a green card through:
Keep in mind that these green cards have numerical limits to them. In accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, 675,000 worldwide LPRs are allowed on an annual basis. When you want to apply for LPR status, it’s important to understand that this process can take decades depending on the path that you take. The basic requirements that immigrants must meet before receiving permanent residence include:
- Have an immigrant visa
- Qualify as being admissible to the U.S.
- Make sure that you file a qualifying immigrant petition, which must be approved
- Obtain eligibility for one of the numerous immigrant categories
If you’re seeking permanent residence in the U.S., there are four separate immigration status categories that you could fall into, which include undocumented immigrants, non-immigrants, residents, and citizens. If you have any questions about your immigrant status and what your path to citizenship is, it’s highly recommended that you contact USCIS.
Immigration Reform from Recent Budget Bill
Before a bill can become a law, it must be passed separately by each house of Congress, which includes the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. On August 24, the U.S. House officially passed the budget bill, which contained a path to citizenship for individuals who want to become permanent residents of the U.S. While full details of the pathway to citizenship aren’t yet known, it applies to people with Temporary Protected Status, farmworkers, and undocumented children.
While some of the $107 billion that was included in this bill is set to be allocated to border security, the rest will be used to establish a path to citizenship. The bill did not state the number of people who would be eligible for this route to citizenship. President Biden put forward another bill some time ago that included a path to citizenship for as many as 11 million undocumented immigrants. However, this bill is stalled in Congress at the moment because of the slim margins in both Congress chambers.
What Is Temporary Protected Status?
As mentioned previously, one type of immigrant who may have a pathway to citizenship because of the budget bill involves any individual with Temporary Protected Status. TPS is a designation that the Secretary of Homeland Security can place on foreign countries because of conditions within those countries that prevent nationals from returning home safely. If nationals of these countries are currently in the U.S., it’s possible for the USCIS to grant them TPS status.
The temporary conditions that could cause the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the TPS designation on a country include:
- An ongoing armed conflict, which could be a civil war
- An epidemic or environmental disaster
- Other temporary or extraordinary conditions
If someone becomes eligible to be a TPS beneficiary, they receive certain protections while their country falls under the TPS designation. These protections include:
- Can receive travel authorization
- Cannot be removed from the U.S.
- Can receive an EAD, which is an employment authorization document
Before this budget bill was passed, people who qualified as TPS beneficiaries did not have a path to citizenship. Instead, they would be tasked with taking additional steps to earn citizenship another way. This new path to citizenship is designed to lessen the burden that TPS beneficiaries face when attempting to receive permanent residence in the U.S.
If you’re currently attempting to obtain an immigrant visa, you should know that processing these applications is taking longer than anticipated. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, extensive backlogs have existed with immigrant visa applications since March, 2020. As of August, 2021, the number of immigrant visa applicants who were ready to be interviewed was just over 547,000. Only 33,000 of these applications have had an interview during August, which is why the entire immigration process is held up at the moment.
While the initial budget bill was passed, lawmakers in Congress still have until mid-September to submit detailed legislation, which is when you should hear more about what the immigration reform entails.