The Proposed Immigration Reform Bill 744
May 6th, 2015
We’ve all been hearing a lot in the media about the proposed immigration reform Bill 744 and how it is now in the senate floor for debate and eventually a vote. But how would you and your family members stand to benefit if it got passed? And what can you do now to start preparing to take advantage of such a reform? In this two part newsletter in question and answer form, we have summarized for you the most important benefits and provisions of this bill and provide some suggestions to help you start preparing now.
1. What benefits would illegal or undocumented immigrants (including those with TPS) derive from the Immigration Reform Bill 744?
Illegal or undocumented immigrants (including those who have TPS), could qualify for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPI), which would give them the following benefits:
- Authorization to remain in the US;
- Authorization to work in the US;
- Authorization to travel outside of the US for periods of time not to exceed 180 continuous days;
- Eligibility to obtain status for spouse and children;
- Waiver of prior deportation orders;
- May later apply for Legal Permanent Resident status if eligible
2. What are the eligibility requirements for the Registered Provisional Immigrant Status (RPI) ?
The following are the eligibility requirements for the RPI status:
- Must be present in the US continuously since December 31, 2011, with some exceptions for brief absences;
- Has not been convicted for a serious crime or 3 non-serious crimes with an exception for certain motor vehicle violations; (conviction does not include judgments that were vacated)
- Has not been engaged or previously engaged in any terrorist activity;
- Does not have unlawful entries after the date that the law is enacted (unlawful entries before the date of the law are waived);
- Has not been granted refugee status or Legal Permanent Resident status and has been unlawfully present in the U.S. except for individuals granted TPS;
- Is the spouse or child of an individual eligible for Registered Provisional Immigrant status;
- Has evidence that all taxes have been paid for all income derived in the US;
- Understands English or is enrolled in an English language program with limited exceptions due to age or disability.
3. What are the requirements for maintaining RPI status?
To maintain RPI status you must:
- Be employed or studying;
- Pay all taxes;
- Not receive public benefits;
- Not travel outside the US without permission;
- Not engage in criminal activity with certain minor exceptions.
4. Is there anything I can do if I have a criminal record to modify it so that I may still qualify for immigration benefits from this law proposal?
Yes. The first step is to have your record evaluated by an attorney with experience in both criminal and immigration law to determine if your record will prevent you from obtaining a benefit under immigration law (this depends on the type of criminal offence and what disposition it had in court). If your criminal record is an obstacle, then the record must be carefully reviewed to establish if there is a legal procedure for the record to be modified or vacated (Note: section 2204 of the proposal states that a vacated conviction will not stop a person from getting a benefit). Then generally, a well-crafted petition must be filed by your attorney, with the court where the criminal case was heard to modify or vacate as necessary.
5. Does this proposed law benefit those who have a deportation order open or in process and those who have been previously deported?
This proposed law may allow those who have been previously ordered deported and those with a deportation order open or in process to apply for the RPI status, as long as they meet the eligibility requirements for the RPI status described above, and they remain inside the US as of the day the law passes. It does not give a direct benefit to those who are outside the US, although they may qualify through certain family members.
6.What are the requirements for obtaining Adjustment of Status or U.S. Legal Permanent Residence mentioned in the proposal?
The following are the requirements mentioned in the proposal for obtaining Adjustment of Status or U.S. Legal Permanent Residence:
- Must have maintained status with limited exceptions based upon age or disability (see prior section for requisites for maintaining status);
- Has registered for Selective Military Service if required;
- Meets the English language requirement;
- All visas have been issued to the individuals who have visas pending in the “Backlog” as of the day the law is enacted;
- Legal Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status may be available sooner for Registered Provisional Immigrant, but not later than 10 years after the enactment of the law.
7. What are the proposed changes with regards to obtaining U.S. Citizenship?
The following are some proposed changes with regards to obtaining U.S. Citizenship:
- Faster eligibility period for individuals working with authorization in the US for 10 years and have been granted LPR status (they may apply for citizenship immediately);
- Reduction in waiting period of LPR’s to apply for citizenship from 5 years to 3 years.
8. What benefits does the proposed bill include for family members of US citizens and Residents?
Some of the benefits for family members of US citizens and Residents include:
- Spouse and children of LPR’s will have visas available without waiting
- Adult children of Citizens and LPR’s will have shorter waiting periods
- Citizens will no longer be able to apply for brothers and sisters
9. When do we believe the new immigration law is likely to pass?
It is our belief that this bill may be likely to pass into law in December of this year. There are approximately 30 amendments that must be reviewed by the two houses of Congress and any differences must be negotiated and agreed upon. Despite the fact that there are a large number of potential disagreements that the Republicans and Democrats will have this is the perfect time for the bill to pass because of the following:
- It is the President’s first year of his second term and he wants immigration reform to pass. Congress will still have to deal with the President for the next 3 years and since he will not be seeking re-election, this yields him substantial influence over Congress at this time. For example, both Presidents Reagan and Clinton signed significant immigration reform laws in their second terms.
- This is an “off-election” year, where no general Congressional, Senatorial or Presidential elections are being held which gives politicians greater flexibility to support a bill and pass laws that are either slightly to the left or right of their natural political position.
- The Hispanic vote played a substantial role in the 2012 election and both parties are still trying to appeal to that section of the electorate;
- The most recent (April 2013) unemployment rate of 7.6% is one of the lowest since 2008 and a full 3 percentage points lower than at its highest point, 9.6% in 2010, and is only 3% higher than the natural rate of unemployment (estimated between 4.4% and 5.2%). If Americans are working and earning then it is easier to accept new neighbors and additional people into our economy.
- December is a month that Congress breaks early and legislative policy is not the focus of Americans’ attention.
10. Should I act now or wait for the immigration reform to pass?
We believe that there is no advantage in waiting to act if you qualify for an immigration benefit now. The sooner you apply for your immigration benefit, the quicker you will be in line to receive it. In addition, if there is an immigration reform law passed, it will most likely respect your place in line and you will not be prevented to apply for additional benefits that you may qualify as a result of the new law, if any. Finally, there is always the risk that the reform may not pass, or that its final form is not as beneficial as we may think now, or that it takes longer than the expected time to pass, specially, if we consider that we have been waiting more than a decade for immigration law reform.
11. What can I do to start preparing to be ready to take advantage of the immigration reform?
It is our belief that any immigration reform law that may pass will require the proper payment of taxes on all income, as well as a relatively clean criminal record and that the person and their families do not use public benefits. It is therefore advisable to have a qualified immigration and criminal defense lawyer review your criminal record to see if there is anything that can be done to allow you to qualify for immigration benefits (please contact our office as soon as possible if you need help with this).
Equally important, is to correct any mistakes in prior tax returns that may not include all income or which may include dependents that may have been declared improperly, as well as to correct any applications for public benefits (i.e. public housing, healthcare and food stamps, etc.) that may have been made in error (i.e. do not include all income or support provided by all members of the family, or that fail to list all family members in the household, etc.) This way you will be in the best position to meet the eligibility requirements when the time comes to apply for any of the new benefits that may be granted by the new law.
* This video is in Spanish
11. What provisions does the proposed bill include for “Dreamers” and DACA holders?
There are two important provisions in the immigration proposed bill regarding those who have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals):
- A Registered Provisional Immigrant who entered the US prior to turning 16 will be eligible for LPR status after 5 years;
- DHS may make the process to obtain LPR status easier for individuals who have been granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.)
12. What benefits does the proposed bill include for Agricultural Workers?
Agricultural workers will receive a Blue Card that will allow them to live, work, travel outside the US, and they will be able to apply to extend these benefits for their children and spouses, if they have worked in farming in the US at least 575 hours or 100 work days from December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2012; and have not been convicted of any serious crimes.
13. What provisions does the proposed bill include regarding merit-based visas?
The proposed law provides a point system through which individuals may obtain Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status, including work and achievements in education, work for community and civic organizations, the creation of new businesses by entrepreneurs, and high demand occupations.
14. What advantages does the proposed bill include for Physicians?
The number of waivers for physicians will be increased to 35 from 30 for each state, so long as the state has used at least 90% of the available waivers the previous year.
15. What changes are included in the proposed bill for H1b visas?
The following are the changes stipulated in the bill for H1b visas:
- The number of H1b visas will be increased to 110,000 from 65,000 and additional increases will be available including an increase to 180,000, if the demand for employment of highly skilled workers requires it;
- Spouses and children will be eligible for work authorization;
- Changes from employers will be made easier
16. What does the proposed bill state regarding the Use of Force when apprehending immigration law violators?
Government officers will be disciplined for improperly using force in apprehension of suspected immigration violators
17. Will there be an increase in government fees for immigration?
Yes. Fees for visas and immigration benefits would be increased to support the increased security provisions of the law.
18. What are some problems or unresolved issues of the Immigration Reform Proposal?
Upon review of the proposed bill, the following are some of the problems or unresolved issues that we found and that we hope are addressed before the bill goes out for a final vote:
- The Provisional Registered Immigrant status only applies to individuals who entered the US prior to December 31, 2011. This would leave all the people that are undocumented and came in after this date unable to benefit from the new law. In the past, most immigration laws that have passed have provided benefits to those who came in just prior to the date of the enactment of the law, so we hope this date gets modified in this manner for it to be more inclusive.
- The benefits under the RPI (Provisional Registered Immigrant) status, only apply to individuals who were in the US without legal status, including those who were granted TPS. This unfairly discriminates against persons who face many of the same difficulties of those without status but managed to comply with the law. The lawful non-immigrants in the US are just as important as any other and are as deserving of these benefits. For example, an individual who entered the US on an employment visa (E, H, L, O, P, R…) but who left his family in his country because the family could not live here without permission to work will continue to be separated from his family for a protracted period of time, instead of being able to have them enter quickly under this program.
- Funds are being spent on enforcement aspects that are not an effective use of resources, for example the doubling of fencing in certain areas. The costs related to the construction and maintenance of such a project should be used in other more important public projects.
19. Is it true that there will be a delay for the benefits of the new proposed law to be effective if the objectives for border security are not achieved?
The media has discussed a great deal about the purported fact, that the benefits of this program will not be available until the border security measures have been successfully implemented, however, the actual current provisions of the law provide for distribution of most benefits after DHS has presented a plan for border security, not after its implementation has been achieved, as many suggest.
Section 3 (c) states:
“Not earlier than the date upon which the Secretary has submitted to Congress the Notice of Commencement of implementation of the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy and the Southern Border Fencing Strategy under section 5 of this Act, the Secretary may commence processing applications for registered provisional immigrant status pursuant to section 245B of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section 2101 of this Act.”
“The Secretary may not adjust the status of aliens who have been granted registered provisional immigrant status, except for aliens granted agriculture card status under section 2201 of this Act or described in section 245D(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, until the Secretary, after consultation with the Comptroller General of the United States, submits to the President and Congress a written certification that… the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy has been submitted to Congress and is substantially deployed and substantially operational.”
In conclusion, the provisions that purport to delay the benefit of adjustment of status or Legal Permanent Residence, based upon the achievement of Southern border security are largely, if not entirely irrelevant, because the only benefit subject to this delay is adjustment of status or legal permanent residence derived from Registered Provisional Immigration Status—it does not prevent adjustment of status under any other provision of the law. In addition, the proposed law already provides that these adjustments of status applications cannot be processed until the entire current visa application in the backlog have been processed and the backlog eliminated, which will take approximately 10 years. Finally, there is a provision of the proposal that states that adjustment of status will be available after 10 years, regardless of whether or not border security is achieved. Therefore, the substantial benefits of this proposal will be effective 180 days after it becomes law. Those benefits being able to live and work in the US, be able to travel in and out of the US and be able to bring certain family members to the US; and full legal permanent resident status and in most cases citizenship will be accessible after 10 years.