On Thursday, June 27, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed SB 744, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bill was passed 68 to 32, with all 54 Senate Democrats and 14 of Senate Republicans voting for it, including Illinois Senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk.
Please remember that this bill has only been passed by the Senate. It will not become law unless the House of Representatives passes the bill and it is signed by President Obama. At this time, there is no new law in effect.
Here is a summary of some of the main features of the Senate Bill:
The Senate bill includes a path to citizenship. The first step would be a new status called “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI) status, which grants the right to work in the U.S. and to travel outside of the U.S. After a certain amount of time in RPI status, an applicant would be able to apply to adjust status to a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) and then apply for citizenship.
Requirements to Obtain RPI Status:
Some of the proposed requirements to obtain RPI status would be:
• You arrived in the U.S. on or before December 31, 2011, and maintained a continuous presence until the date of application.
• You have paid all federal taxes, fees and fines.
• You have not been convicted of certain criminal offenses.
It is estimated that in most cases, the path to citizenship would take 13 years: 10 years in RPI status followed by 3 years in LPR status, at which point an applicant could apply for U.S. Citizenship.
The Senate bill proposes a special program for “DREAMers” to become citizens more quickly. A DREAMer would be defined as someone who a) entered the U.S. before the age of 16, b) earned a high school diploma or GED certificate, and c) completed at least 2 years of a higher education program or 4 years in the U.S. military. After only 5 years in RPI status, DREAMers would be able to apply for their LPR status and U.S. citizenship at the same time.
Border Security and Other Requirements:
The Senate bill proposes that before any people who have RPI status can apply to become LPRs, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) would have to certify that they have achieved the following:
• DHS has made Immigrant Visas available to everyone who was the beneficiary of an employment- or family-based visa petition that was filed before the date the new law is enacted; and
• DHS has achieved a number of specific goals to increase border security.
Requirements to Adjust to LPR Status after RPI Status:
Once the above conditions have been met, a person in RPI status would be able to apply to become an LPR if he or she has:
• Been in RPI status for the requisite amount of time.
• Paid certain fees and fines.
• Met certain employment or education requirements.
• Achieved a certain level of knowledge of English and U.S. civics.
Again, this is only a summary of some of the main points of the Senate bill. There are many other provisions included in this bill.
Please remember that this Senate bill cannot become law unless the House of Representatives agrees to change the immigration laws as well. If you are a U.S. citizen, please contact your U.S. Representative in Congress and encourage him or her to vote for an immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. You can find your U.S. Representative at the following website:http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.
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