Less than 48 hours ago, by a vote of 13-5, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan immigration reform bill known as “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity & Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” paving the way for a discussion and vote on the measure by the full Senate.
Reportedly, the original version of the bill emerged from the Judiciary Committee with just a few proposed amendments, one of which would extend welfare benefits to undocumented immigrants rather than delaying them for years until citizenship is attained, and another similarly extending affordable health care benefits to those immigrants as well.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) has issued a press release commending all of the Senators involved in bringing the bipartisan proposal for badly needed immigration reforms to the floor, noting that there are several key changes in law proposed by the Act.
Among the most significant changes that AILA noted are the following:
- New Legal Status: Non-citizens who entered the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011, and remain here unlawfully would be allowed to adjust their status to that of a Registered Provisional Immigrant (a new category). Those in this category would receive work authorizations and be permitted to travel abroad upon paying a designated penalty and back taxes, becoming eligible to apply for Legal Permanent Resident status after a specified period of time. Most would have to wait 10 years, but agricultural workers and those covered by so-called “DREAM” provisions applicable to people brought here as children will be on shorter tracks. Legal Permanent Residents would then be on a three-year path to citizenship.
- New Visas for Low-Wage Workers: The Act would create a new W-1 visa for workers with less valuable skills, and a W-2 visa for workers who come here for seasonal or temporary labor. A new W-3 visa would also apply to “at will” workers with offers of full-time employment in agricultural occupations.
- Elimination of Certain Quotas: The Act would exempt from quotas all EB-1 immigrants (those with demonstrated extraordinary ability, certain professors and researchers, and global executives or senior managers) and specifically exempt doctoral degree holders and physicians who have completed foreign residency requirements.
- Increase in H-1B Quotas: The Act would increase the current quota for H-1B visa holders (those with certain specialty occupations) by more than 75 percent to a total of at least 110,000 per year to as much as 180,000, dependent on economic conditions. It would also increase the advanced degree exemption slots for H-1B placement, but limit those slots to applicants in science, technology, engineering or medical disciplines.
- Requirement to Use E-verify: The Act would require all employers to use the federal E-verify system to document employment eligibility within five years.
- Protection Against Fraud: The Act would make it a serious crime to knowingly defraud an immigrant or attempt to do so by holding one self out to be an immigration attorney or accredited legal representative when one is not authorized to do so. Individuals who assist immigrants in the completion of government forms related to immigration would also have to be identified and registered for monitoring under the Act.
We will be tracking continuing developments in federal immigration reform as they occur, and look forward to bringing you more information in the months ahead, which promise to provide significant debate on Capitol Hill.
As always, the Law Office of Ronald Shapiro, Esq. stands ready to serve those in need of immigration assistance, including those who are likely to be the beneficiaries of expected legislative reforms. Please contact us at (847) 564-0712 to speak with an experienced and qualified immigration attorney and/or check out our immigration law Website for more information about how we might assist you.