In Part One of our examination of the bipartisan Senate plan for comprehensive immigration reform, we looked at the provisions regarding increased border enforcement. In Part Two, we looked at the Registered Provisional Immigrant Status and reviewed how such RPI individuals might eventually obtain full lawful permanent resident status if the legislation becomes law.
In Part Three, we examine the provisions of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization act of 2013 which are dedicated to streamlining the “legal” immigration process. According to the summary, the bill eliminates the backog for family and employment-based immigrants.
Changes to Family-Based Visas
The law would eliminate the four family-based preference categories and replace it with two family preference categories. The changes would apply to unmarried adult children and married adult children who file before age 31, as well as the unmarried adult children of lawful permanent residents.
The bill would repeal the availability of immigrant visas for siblings of U.S. citizens. The act would expand the definition of “immediate relative” to include children and spouses of lawful permanent residents. The bill would repeal the Diversity Visa Program.
The DHS would also be allowed to allocate unused employment visas for some family-based, backlogged petitions between 2015 and 2012, and beyond.
Changes to Employment Visas
On the employment side, the bill would exempt the following aliens from the annual numerical caps on employment-based immigrants:
Under the current draft, 40 percent of employment-based visas would be allocated to professionals holding advanced degrees or their equivalent and whose services are sought in the sciences, arts, professions or business by an employer in the US – including certain aliens with foreign medical degrees and aliens who have earned a master’s degree or higher in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education and have an offer of employment in a related field. The degree has to have been earned in the 5 years immediately prior to the filing of the petition.
The bill would increase the percentage of employment visas for skilled workers and certain professionals to 40 percent. The bill would also allow for a “startup visa” for foreign entrepreneurs who wish to emigrate to the U.S. to start their own company.
Merit Based Visas
According to the summary of the bill, a new, merit-based visa will be created 5 years after enactment. This visa would award “points” to individuals based on their education, employment, length of residence in the US and other considerations. “Those individuals with the most points earn the visas.” There would be 120,000 visas available per year based on merit. The number would increase by 5% per year if demand exceeded supply and unemployment is under 8.5% (with a cap of 250,000 visas).
Some of these visas might become available October 1, 2014 for employment based visas that have been pending for 3 years, family-based petitions that were filed prior to enactment and have been pending for five years, long-term alien workers and “other merit based” immigrant workers. Long-term alien workers are defined as those lawfully present in the US for more than 10 years (and not under the W visa).