Changes Coming in Family-based Immigration?

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Senate Bill No. 744, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, was introduced in the Senate on April 16, 2013, is now being considered by the House of Representatives, and will bring changes to the family-based immigration system, if enacted into law.

One of the biggest changes is that there will no longer be an immigrant benefit category for siblings of U.S. citizens, and visas will no longer be available to marrieds sons or daughters of U.S. citizens who are over 30 years of age. If S. 744 passes the House and is signed into law, these relatives would have to apply under the new point system or find another avenue in order to immigrate.

Also, spouses and children of lawful permanent residents will be considered immediate relatives if the bill passes into law, making them exempt from the visa caps that currently apply to them. They will also be immediately eligible for green cards.

The bill does not specifically allow U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to petition for green cards for their same-sex spouses, but the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor should open the door to those spouses, at least if their marriages are recognized in the states of their residence or celebration (though the details of how this will work in actual practice may remain murky until further legislative action or subsequent court opinions).

The number of family-based immigration visas available in total to immigrants from all countries will remain at 480,000 per year, minus the visas granted to immediate relatives in the prior year, but not less than 161,000 per year as of 18 months after the bill becomes law.

We will be tracking continuing developments in federal immigration reform as they occur, and look forward to bringing you more information in the months ahead about the progress of proposed reforms on Capitol Hill.