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Senate Officially Unveils Proposal for a Path to Citizenship

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on April 25, 2013

Less than 10 days ago, the U.S. Senate put forward a legislative proposal entitled, “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” which would provide millions of undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship in this country.

Those eligible for citizenship would have to pay a registration fee, processing fees and certain “assessed taxes” based on their history in this country, and they would only qualify after a period of time on provisional legal status.

Furthermore, the bill would require Homeland Security to create and launch a border security and fencing program before undocumented immigrants could even be covered by the protections of provisional legal status, which among other things, would allow qualified immigrants to continuing working here and return after periodic travel abroad.

After Homeland Security executes its launch of a border security and fencing program, undocumented immigrants who are not disqualified by certain criminal convictions or safety risks will be allowed to remain in the U.S. under a “provisional legal status” for a six-year term, renewable if no deportable acts have been committed during the prior term. While they remain in the U.S. under a provisional status, they would be barred from federal benefits for welfare or health care.

Those who have resided here on provisional status for 10 years or more could then seek permanent residence status, obtaining so-called “green cards” through a new “merit-based” system that would score applications based on points awarded to each applicant under a scoring system designed to favor the most desirable citizens. But this transition would only become possible if the security and fencing program has been substantially carried out, as decided by some kind of bipartisan review.

To qualify for merit-based award of permanent resident status, an applicant would have to demonstrate:

  • A continuous physical presence (with some exceptions);
  • Payment of all taxes owed during the provisional period;
  • Regular work in the U.S. during the period;
  • Knowledge of civics and English;
  • Payment of a $1,000 penalty for illegal entry.

Those immigrants who obtain permanent resident status can then petition for citizenship after another three years, and those who do not can remain here under the renewable provisional status.

Immigrants who are agricultural workers, as well as those who were brought here as youths that would be covered by special “DREAM” provisions, would be entitled to a quicker path to citizenship. These groups could get green cards after five years, and would become eligible to file petitions for citizenship immediately thereafter.

There would also be no limit on the number of green cards awarded to certain immigrants of “extraordinary ability” in science, arts, education, business or athletics, or to outstanding professors, doctors or certain skilled professionals.

The bill also generally expands the “immediate relative” visa category, but it proposes to eliminate green card eligibility for the brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens to cut back on the amount of siblings entering the country on the coat-tails of one family member. Thus, anyone thinking now of obtaining a green card with the help of a sibling, should immediately file a petition for permanent resident status before this legislation is enacted, possibly later this year.