Immigration Reform Title II: Legalization (Registered Provisional Immigrant program) and Legal Immigration

Immigration Reform Title II: Legalization (Registered Provisional Immigrant program) and Legal Immigration

Part A. Creation of Registered Provisional Immigrant program

This section provides a path to citizenship for the 11 undocumented immigrants in the United States through the RPI process.   

• Registration Requirements: Immigrants who entered the United States before December 31, 2011 and have been physically present in the U.S. since that time will be eligible to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status provided they pass a background check, have not been convicted of a serious crime, pay any assessed tax liability, and pay appropriate fees and a $500 fine.  The fee has not been determined yet.

• Initial registration will be valid for six years. It provides for work and travel authorization, and includes spouses and children in the United States on the same application.

• Renewal: RPIs applying for renewal will be subject to a new background check, payment of processing fees, payment of taxes, and a $500 fine. RPIs must provide evidence of having been:

  1. regularly employed while meeting a requirement that he/she is not likely to become a public charge or
  2. having resources to demonstrate 125% of the poverty level.

• Adjustment of Status to Permanent Residency: At the end of ten years, RPIs may apply for adjustment of status, provided that they demonstrate:

  1. they are admissible,
  2. pay an additional $1000 fine per adult plus application fees;
  3. prove they are learning English;
  4. pay their taxes;
  5. pass a background check and
  6. demonstrate compliance with the employment requirement. Specifically, they must show:
  • they have regularly worked in the U.S. such that they are not likely to become a public charge or
  • they have resources to meet 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Under the revamped legal immigration system, individuals present in the U.S. for 10 years in lawful status can adjust status to lawful permanent residence including RPIs and other legal immigrants. RPIs may apply for naturalization after an additional three year wait, making the total path to citizenship 13 years minimum. The bill includes a back of the line requirement: RPIs may not adjust status until the family and employment backlogs are cleared.

• Timeline: DHS has 12 months to issue regulations. Then there is a one year initial application period which can be extended by the Secretary for up to 18 months.

• DREAM Act: Individuals who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and who have completed high school or obtained a GED in the U.S. may register for RPI status through the DREAM Act. There is no age cap for the program. Individuals who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are grandfathered into RPI status. DREAM RPIs are exempted from penalties and the triggers. Five years after registration, DREAM RPIs may apply for adjustment of status; their time in RPI status will count towards eligibility for naturalization, allowing them to become citizens immediately after receiving their green card. Children under age 16 have a five year path to citizenship and are exempted from certain requirements. The bill heightens child welfare protections to ensure parental rights are not terminated on the basis of a parent’s immigration status alone.

• Agricultural program: Undocumented farmworkers who can demonstrate a minimum of 100 work days or 575 hours in the two years prior to the date of enactment would be eligible for an Agricultural Card. Workers who work at least 100 days a year for five years or workers who perform at least 150 days a year for three years can adjust status to permanent residency. To be eligible for permanent residence, agricultural workers  must show that they have paid all taxes, have not been convicted of any serious crime, and pay a $400 fine.

• Integration: Creates an Office of New Americans, a New Americans taskforce and additional initiatives to help immigrants learn English, American civics and integrate into local communities. It also provides funding for programs to help non-profits and local government with these initiatives.

Part B – Legal Immigration Reforms

This part establishes a new framework for future legal immigration by revamping the current family and employment-based systems and creating two additional merit-based immigration systems.

• New Merit-Based System: Creates a “Track One” merit based visa which will initially allocate 120,000 visas annually based on a points system, with the possibility of increasing the allotment by 5% (up to 250,000) in any year when unemployment is under 8.5%. Points will be awarded for factors such as education, employment, family in the U.S. and length of residence in the U.S. Half of the merit visas will be set aside for high skilled individuals and half of the cap will be for lower skilled workers.

• A new “Track Two” merit-based system is created to clear the employment and family backlogs. In addition, this system allows individuals who are lawfully present in the U.S. for over ten years with work authorization to adjust status to permanent residence.

• Lawful Permanent Residents’ spouses and children: The current family based categories will be revised to permit the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to immigrate immediately.

• Additional changes to the current family system: The current sibling category will be eliminated 18 months after enactment. The third preference family category (adult married children of U.S. citizens) will have an age cap of 31 beginning 18 months after enactment. The backlog reduction program will include processing of petitions in phased-out family categories. U.S. citizens can petition for a sibling for up to 18 months after enactment.

• New Family “V” Visa: Creates a new nonimmigrant visa for families with approved petitions to work and live in the U.S. while waiting for their green card. It also allows other family members including siblings to visit the U.S. for up to 60 days per year.

• Employment-Based Reforms: Spouses and children of employment based visa applicants, STEM graduates with doctoral degrees, certain other professionals, and certain foreign doctors are exempt from the employment visa cap. The cap on low- skilled workers is raised.

• Additional Backlog Reduction and Improvements: Additional provisions to streamline processing and reduce backlogs include elimination of employment based country caps, an increase in family based country limits, and recapture of unused visa numbers. Popular programs for foreign doctors (Conrad-30), religious worker recruitment, and EB-5 investors are permanently reauthorized. Numerous other technical fixes to improve and streamline current visa programs are included (additional protections for stepchildren, widows, and other family members.)

• Judicial Discretion: Expands the authority of immigration judges and DHS to waive removal on humanitarian grounds.

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