The U.S. Senate has recently unveiled a new immigration plan that many are describing as a major, broad overhaul to current immigration policy. The plan, drafted by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, would allow certain immigrants currently in the country illegally to earn a path to citizenship – a major contrast to current immigration policy that some experts think causes more harm than good.
Illegal Immigrants Brought to the U.S. by their Parents
In an effort to protect children who did not have a choice about coming to the United States, the bipartisan senate plan would allow anyone who entered the country before December 31st, 2011 who was 14 years of age or younger when they entered the country to get a green card after five years of living in the U.S. Immediately upon being issued a green card, these young people, referred to as “Dreamers” in the plan, would be able to apply for full U.S. citizenship.
Illegal Immigrants Working in the Agricultural Industry
Immigrants currently in the country illegally who are employed in the U.S. agricultural industry can apply for a green card in five to seven years, under the proposed plan, with the length of wait depending on how long the individual immigrant commits to continuing to work in the industry.
Other Illegal Immigrants
Depending on whether or not the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security submits a border security plan, illegal immigrants not considered “Dreamers” and not employed in agriculture would be able to apply for provisional residency after spending at least six months in the country illegally. To earn provisional status, illegal immigrants would have had to have arrived in the U.S. by December 31st, 2011, would have to pass a background check, and would have to pay a $500 fine plus certain application processing fees. Illegal immigrants with a felony conviction, or those with at least three misdemeanor convictions, would be ineligible for provisional status. Provisional status would allow the immigrant to travel in and out of the U.S., but would need to be renewed every six years, with another $500 fine due at time of renewal. After ten years on provisional status, formerly illegal immigrants would be able to apply for permanent resident status.
Former Illegal Immigrants Already Deported
Those immigrants who were deported because of their status, and not because of criminal reasons, who came to the United States on or before December 31st, 2011, would be able to apply for provisional legal status, allowing them to return to the U.S. despite having already been deported.
Future Immigrants – The Merit Visa
Under the Senate’s proposed plan, certain future immigrants will find it easier to apply for residency and eventual citizenship. The proposal would grant visas based on a point system, with immigrants being able to earn points based on their level of education, skill set, and / or occupation. Immigrants would also be able to earn residency if they are employed in low wage occupations or the agricultural sector.
Still Up in the Air
So far, the proposal made by the Senate is just that, a proposal. There are still hoops that have to be jumped through in order to make the proposal a permanent policy. Immigrants who think they may be affected by changes to policy are encouraged to speak with an experienced immigration attorney for in depth advice.
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