Highlights of the America’s Children Act of 2021, Immigration Reform Bill

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You have all heard the news. A new House bill has been introduced that if passed would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States without legal status. But what exactly does the bill include? In this blog post we share with you the highlights of the America’s Children Act of 2021 also known as H.R. 4331.


Bill Highlights


Among the highlights of America’s Children Act of 2021 the bill:

  • Provides a pathway to permanent residency for individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age, TPS recipients, individuals under DED status, and essential workers, who have maintained continuous physical presence in the United States since their entry, and/or have graduated from an institution of higher education;
  • Establishes protections for Diversity Visa lottery winners who could not come to the United States from 2017 to present due to COVID-19 related delays;
  • Creates special provisions to recapture unused visas and provides a waiver of numerical limitations for beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions currently waiting for their priority dates to become current

Who would benefit?


The main section of the bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for people in DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status and also people who may not have qualified for DACA. Individuals in Temporary Protected Status and those who received Deferred Enforced Departure would also be eligible. Qualifications differ among these groups and many more changes are expected however the key provisions have been mentioned above. To obtain permanent residence, individuals cannot be disqualified based on grounds of ineligibility and must complete “security and law enforcement background checks” and a medical examination.


Pathway to Citizenship for Dreamers


Under the committee print released by the House Judiciary Committee, certain aliens would be eligible to adjust their status to permanent residence within the United States, by paying a supplemental fee of $1,500 and passing criminal checks. To be eligible, an alien would have to show that he or she:

  • has been continuously physically present in the USA since January 1, 2021;
  • was 18 years of age or younger when they entered the USA;
  • has continuously resided in the USA since such entry;

and demonstrate

  • a record of honorable service in the U.S. military OR
  • attainment of, or completion of at least 2 years, in good standing, of a program leading to a (1) degree from a U.S. institution of higher education or (2) postsecondary credential from an area career and technical education school in the USA; OR
  • during the 3-year period before applying for adjustment of status providing evidence of a consistent record of earned income in the USA OR
  • current enrollment in an institution of higher education in the USA.

Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers


In addition, the bill would also allow certain employment-based immigrants to adjust their status to permanent residence status as “essential workers,” again provided they can pay the $1,500 supplemental fee, pass background checks, and otherwise meet the requirements. According to a Department of Homeland Security memorandum issued on August 10, 2021, “The industries that essential workers support represent, but are not limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, and law enforcement.” Essential workers would have to show continuous presence in the United States since January 1, 2021 and demonstrate a consistent record of earned income in the United States in an occupation described in the guidance of the Advisory Memorandum, during the COVID-19 response period beginning January 31, 2020, and ending August 24, 2021.


Pathway to Citizenship for Temporary Protected Status


The bill would also allow recipients of Temporary Protected Status to adjust their status to permanent residence status provided the supplemental fee is paid, background checks are satisfied, and the applicant can show that he or she has been continuously physically present in the United States for no less than 3 years in that status and that he or she is a national of a foreign state with a TPS designation under subsection (b) of section 244 on January 1, 2017. The same criteria would apply to applicants with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status that were present in the U.S. since January 1, 2017.


Bypassing Visa Bulletin Numerical Limitation Waiting Period by Paying Fees – For Beneficiaries of an Approved Immigrant Visa Petition Lawfully Residing in the USA


Interestingly, provisions in the bill would allow family and employment-based immigrants waiting in the visa backlogs for their priority dates to become current, to bypass these backlogs and adjust their status to permanent residence simply by requesting a “waiver of the numerical limitations” and paying a fee.

What are the proposed fees?

For instance, under the bill, an employment-based immigrant applicant with a “priority date that is more than 2 years before the date the alien requests a waiver of the numerical limitations” can adjust to permanent residence without numerical limits by paying a supplemental fee of $5,000. The proposed fee for EB-5 immigrant investors to request waiver of a numerical limitation would be $50,000.

A family-based immigrant sponsored by a U.S. citizen with a “priority date that is more than 2 years before the date the alien requests a waiver of the numerical limitations” can adjust to permanent residence without numerical limits by paying a supplemental fee of $2,500.

If a family-based applicant’s priority date is not within two years, they can still file for adjustment of status for a $1,500 fee (plus a $250 fee for children), but they must be lawfully residing inside the United States.

It is expected that the “waiver of the numerical limitation” provision in the bill would largely benefit employment-based immigrants, and not family-based immigrants, because the data suggests that few family-based immigrants file adjustment of status cases based on their residence abroad. In FY 2019 only 8% to 15% of family-based immigrants (depending on the category) applied to adjust their status to permanent residence in the United States.

By contrast, employment-based data shows that the vast majority of employment-based immigrants are lawfully residing in the United States. In FY 2019, 94% of employment-based immigrants (high-skilled) filed adjustment of status cases.  Only 3% of individuals in the EB-5 category received permanent residence inside the United States in FY 2019.


Unused Visas and Protections for DV Lottery Winners 


Under this bill, a minimum of 226,000 immigrant visas would be recaptured in family and employment-based categories that went unused between FY 1992 and FY 2021. Green cards would also be protected for Diversity visa winners who could not come to the United States from 2017 onwards due to the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban” or Covid-related policies and delays.


What will it take to pass this bill?


Before becoming law, the provisions would have to pass the Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives, the Senate and be signed by the president. If this bill becomes law, it will take effect within 180 days of its passage or May 1, 2022, whichever comes first.


Conclusion


This is a very exciting new bill that we hope will have some traction in Congress. To read the complete committee copy of the bill please check out our helpful links below. Please also subscribe to our YouTube Channel to watch attorney Jacob Sapochnick’s analysis of the America’s Children Act of 2021.


Helpful Links


Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.


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Highlights of the America’s Children Act of 2021, Immigration Reform Bill