“The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013”
Published on 30 June 2014 Hits: 1088
After months of debate between the eight senators chosen to lead the efforts of reforming the U.S. immigration system, an 844-page bill was proposed today, April 17, 2013. Formed through compromises, the proposed bill is far from perfect. However, this is the closest we have come in years to meaningful change.
Major Components of the Bill
The proposed bill is divided into four main sections: (1) border security, (2) immigrant visas, (3) interior enforcement, and (4) reforms to employment-based non-immigrant visas. Among its many provisions, the bill provides a 13-year pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently present in the country without lawful status, new visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers, reductions to some categories of family-based visas, and a greater emphasis on employment and education skills.
New Visa Programs for High- and Low-Skilled workers
The proposed bill recognizes the U.S. economy’s need for skilled entrepreneurs and foreigners educated in the fields of math and science in order to encourage economic growth. Thus, it provides an easier path to obtaining a green card for foreigners who are U.S. educated in math and science (regardless of home country), a new visa category for entrepreneurs, and more guest workers to be deployed on short-term projects. Further, the bill would raise the total number of H-1B visas to 110,000 a year, with a provision for as many as 180,000 visas during years of demonstrably high demand.
However, companies whose employees consist mostly of guest workers will be required to pay higher fees. In addition, the bill also proposes to raise wages for all guest workers here under H-1B status and would require employers to advertise job openings to prospective American workers.
Reductions to Some Categories of Family-Based Visas
As a result of compromise, the bill would reduce the categories of family members eligible for green cards. In particular, siblings of U.S. citizens would be eliminated as a category eligible for green cards. Additionally, petitions for sons and daughters of U.S. citizens would be limited to those children who are under 31 years old. The Green Card Lottery (also known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa) which distributed 55,000 visas each year would also be eliminated, and such visas will instead be given to the 4.7 million immigrants who have legally applied for green cards and have been stuck in backlogs for many years, waiting to be reunited with their families.
However, the bill would remove annual limits on the number of green cards available for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents. As a result, an estimated 800,000 immediate family members will move through the backlog and gain green cards over the next decade.
Greater Emphasis on Employment and Education Skills
The proposed bill includes a new merit-based program for foreigners to become permanent legal residents based on their work skills, including both high-skilled and blue-collar workers. This arises as a result of the shift from the focus on family ties, but will not be in effect until the backlog has been cleared—an estimated 10 years. At that time, new green cards will be offered to three categories of workers: (1) high-skilled foreigners in technology and science, (2) employees with a middle range of white collar skills, and (3) low-wage workers (farm workers not included).
Accelerated Greed Card Applications to Reduce Backlogs
Among the proposals to reduce backlogs is a plan to accelerate green card applications of foreigners living legally in the United States who have been waiting to receive their documents for 10 years or more. Any immigrants who have been working legally in this country for 10 years would also have their green cards processed more rapidly, either through the current system or through the new merit-based system.
In conclusion, the proposed immigration reform bill will provide for more employment-based visas, especially for foreigners educated in the fields of math and science, while reducing the number of family-based avenues for immigration. Accordingly, those seeking to pursue family-based visas or green cards are highly advised to initiate the process as soon as possible, so as to qualify for rapid processing before such categories are limited or eliminated.