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Breaking Down Biden’s New Immigration Reform Bill: New ‘Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status’ Category Creates Gateway for Legalization

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this post, we are breaking down Biden’s new immigration reform proposal which was recently introduced before Congress. The new proposal, also known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, is groundbreaking because it creates an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.

While this piece of legislation is still just a bill, it is opening the door for further dialogue from members of Congress and provides a unique window into what a final bill on immigration reform might look like.


How exactly does one “earn” their citizenship with this bill?


Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States on or before January 1, 2021, who can prove that they do not have a criminal record, and are not otherwise ineligible, would be eligible to secure something called “lawful prospective immigrant status” or “LPI” under this new bill.

Essentially, “LPI” would be a provisional temporary type of status that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States lawfully for a six-year period of time. This provisional status would act as a “gateway” to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent residence and citizenship in the future.

Under the bill, eligible applicants would be granted “LPI” status for a 6-year period, and within that period of provisional status, immigrants would then be eligible to apply for permanent residence after 5 years. After 3 years of being in green card status, such immigrants would then be eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

All applicants would be required to pass background checks and pay taxes under the law.


Would LPI immigrants be able to travel in and out of the country?


Yes. LPI immigrants would be eligible to receive employment authorization and advance parole that would allow them to work and travel in and out of the country.

Additionally, LPI immigrants would be protected from deportation while their applications for LPI would be pending with immigration.


Are there special provisions for DACA recipients, TPS eligible immigrants, and farm workers?


Yes. Under the bill, those with DACA, individuals eligible for TPS, and farm workers with a demonstrated work history would be exempted from the “LPI” provisional status and would be permitted to apply for permanent residence directly without having to wait 5 years to apply for permanent residence, through an expedited “fast track” type of processing.

All others, however, would need to first obtain LPI status and then after 5 years apply for a green card.


Does the bill apply to those with valid nonimmigrant visas?


No. Individuals who have been living in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa type and those visiting the country temporarily would not benefit under the new bill.


What about H-2A workers? Are they eligible for LPI status?


Yes. Temporary agricultural workers in H-2A visa status could be granted provisional LPI status for a 6-year period. In addition, “noncitizen(s) who [have] engaged in essential critical infrastructure labor or services” in the United States,” could also be eligible according to the text of the new bill.


Who would be exempt from having to apply for LPI under the bill?


The bill provides exemptions for those who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or who are already enrolled in the program, Temporary Protected Status holders and those who have been agricultural farm workers for at least five years. These individuals are exempt from having to apply for LPI and may apply for a green card directly. Such individuals would be eligible to apply for US. Citizenship after 5 years of having a green card.


What if I have a criminal record?


Under the proposed bill, dismissed or vacated convictions would no longer make an applicant ineligible for benefits and these convictions would not be considered by immigration courts.

However, those who have committed three misdemeanors or who were convicted of a felony are not eligible to apply for LPI status.

Those with a criminal record should always consult with an experienced immigration attorney to determine whether any waivers are available to them to allow them to apply for LPI status. Depending on the type of crime, certain crimes that occurred long ago may no longer be considered provided the person has not had any new convictions.


Does the bill have any provisions for family sponsorship?


Yes. The bill extends a special visa category that promotes family reunification called the V nonimmigrant visa type. This is a special visa type that has been created to allow families to stay together while waiting for the processing of immigrant visas.

While the V visa is currently available only to spouses and minor children of green card holders, the bill would extend the V nonimmigrant visa to families sponsored by a legal permanent resident. Such individuals would be able to enter the United States using the visa and avoid having to wait for a visa to become available from their home country.


Repeal of the 3 and 10-year bars


Interestingly, the bill would also eliminate the 3 and 10-year bars that apply to undocumented immigrants who have remained in the country illegally for more than 180 days, but less than one year (3-year bar); and those who were unlawfully present for more than one year (10-year bar).

Eliminating these bars would allow individuals who lived in the United States illegally to apply for admission in the future.


Conclusion


We are hopeful that this new bill will spark renewed debate on the subject of comprehensive immigration reform and help millions of undocumented immigrants better integrate into our society.


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