A Closer Look At Biden’s US Citizenship Act

Posted on Mar 1, 2021 by Chris Prescott

On his first day in office, President Biden sent a new Immigration Bill to Congress in an effort to modernize a very much outdated Immigration system.  This bill is known as the “U.S. Citizenship Act” aims to introduce a number of key changes and was formally introduced in the House on February 18, 2021. An identical bill was also introduced in the Senate on February 22, 2021.  The key changes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Earned path to Citizenship– The Act seeks to create a 5- year path to becoming a green card holder for undocumented individuals. After an additional 3 years and after passing certain background checks the Act provides for those undocumented individuals to apply for Citizenship.  However, only those in the US as of January 1, 2021 would be eligible to apply for either.
  • Removing the word Alien– The Act seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by replacing the word “alien” with “noncitizen.”
  • Reclassify spouses and children of LPRs- The Act seeks to re-classify spouses and children of green card holders as “Immediate relatives.” This would effectively exempt spouses and children from the caps, freeing up more visas for other categories.
  • Elimination of the 3 and 10- year bars– Certain individuals that accrue unlawful presence can be subject to a 3 or 10-year bar. The Act, if it, becomes law would eliminate these bars making it easier for families to reunite.
  • Increase the number of visas available and recapturing of unused visas due to bureaucratic delays- if enacted this Act would increase the number of employment-based visas from 140,000 to 170,000. It would also recapture any unused visas from 1992-2020, therefore increasing the overall number of visas available.  This should help clear the backlog.
  • Adjustment of Family-sponsored per country limits- The Act seeks to increase the 7% per country limit to 20% for family-based cases.
  • Elimination of the per-country cap for Employment-based cases- The Act seeks to eliminate the per-country cap for Employment-based cases. This would help clear the backlog for Indians and Chinese Nationals, but would create a backlog for applicants from other countries that currently have no wait time.
  • Expansion of H-4 EADs– this would be expanded to include EADs for children and not just spouses.

All of the above represent what we would consider being positive changes.  However, the Act also includes some less positive changes, which are as follows:

  • Wage-based selection consideration of temporary workers-While some may believe this was purely a Trump ideology, Biden too has expressed a desire to move towards a wage-based selection system, especially for H-1Bs. The Act provides for the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations to establish procedures for prioritizing visas based on wages.  Watch this space!
  • Ability to reduce the number of immigrant admissions during times of high-unemployment- The Act authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretary of Labor to establish, by regulation, procedures for temporarily limiting the admission of immigrants (EB-2 and EB-3) in areas that experience high level so unemployment.

The Act seeks to accomplish a lot of things, both good and bad and spans over 350 pages.  However, whether Biden will garner sufficient support for this legislation remains to be seen.

PLG Attorneys will continue to monitor the situation and will provide further updates as they become available.

For immigration-related queries please contact PLG Partner Chris Prescott @ cprescott@patellegal.com or Attorney Monique Mutombo at MMutombo@patellegal.com