Highlights of Immigration Reforms Act
On April 16, 2013, an immigration bill introduced by a group of eight senators, commonly referred to as the “Immigration Reform Act” would change the current laws and create new relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.
However at this point, this is only a bill, not a law. If the bill passes, it may result in the following,
1. Elimination of relief under the current immigration law
The bill proposes to eliminate the family-based 4th preference category. U.S. citizens would no longer be able to file immigrant visa petitions for their siblings 18 months after passage of the law.
2. Legalization of undocumented immigrants by creating a new relief called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status
A person in RPI status would not have a green card, but would be allowed to work, leave and return to the United States.
To be eligible for RPI status, an applicant can apply after enactment of the law, providing the following criteria are met:
- Must have entered in the United States before December 31, 2011, and have been continuously residing in the U.S. since that date.
- Must pay all income taxes required and owed.
- Must pay a fine (currently proposed $500) on top of filing fees.
- Individuals who are currently in removal proceedings or who were deported and then returned may be eligible if they returned to the U.S. before December 31, 2011, and were not deported due to criminal issues.
- Individuals who were deported and are currently out of the U.S. may be eligible if they have immediate family (spouse and parents of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent residents) in the U.S.
- Criminal bars would apply. An individual is not eligible if convicted a felony or three or more misdemeanors.
- RPI status will initially be valid for 6 years and can be renewed by paying a new fine (currently proposed $500).
- Spouses and children may be included and entitled to RPI status if the applicant is eligible and the spouse and children are residing in the United States at the time the application is filed.
- After 10 years in RPI status, an individual can adjust to green card status by paying a fine (currently proposed $1000), and be eligible for citizenship three years after receiving the green card.
- Certain RPIs who were brought into the United States illegally (the Dreamers) can get “green cards” in five years and individuals can immediately apply for citizenship after obtaining their green card.
3. Actions to take now
If the bill becomes law, it opens a path to U.S. citizenship for millions who would otherwise have no choice, but to continue to be in the U.S. illegally. While waiting for the bill to pass, it is encouraged that the following actions to be taken:
- As the bill proposes to eliminate sibling immigration petition, individuals should file the petitions now before the provision for relief expires.
- With regard to criminal bars set for the purpose of RPI status, a “conviction” does not include a judgment that has been expunged due to constitutional error such as a defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel. As such, individuals with criminal records should consult with an attorney now to see if a conviction can be expunged or set aside.
Finally, it is anticipated that about 11 million people will apply after the passage of the law. Prospective applicants should consult with an experienced immigration attorney now for eligibility analysis and better preparation. Our office is ready to assist you, please call to schedule a consultation now.