Democrats in Congress have introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, advancing the Biden Administration’s efforts for reform of the U.S. immigration system. Democrats will need 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to overcome a filibuster.
The bill includes a broad swath of reforms affecting the U.S. undocumented population, the family-based and employment-based immigration systems, and border management. Notably, the bill would create an 8-year path to citizenship for undocumented individuals. Given the challenge of passing comprehensive reforms, various provisions, such as the Dream Act, may be sectioned off and advanced where there may be greater bi-partisan support.
Key provisions affecting employers and foreign workers include:
- PhD holders in STEM fields from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education, individuals with an approved immigrant petition bearing a priority date more than 10 ago, and spouses and children of employment-based applicants would all be exempted from the numerical limitations on employment based immigrant visas, substantially reducing overall backlogs;
- Elimination of the 7% per-country ceiling on employment-based immigrant visas;
- Reduction of the EB-1 and EB-2 preference categories from 28.6% to 23.55%, and increase of the EB-3 category from 28.6% to 41.2% of the employment-based worldwide level;
- Expanding the limit on EB-3 unskilled workers from 10,000 to 40,000;
- Provisions for temporary limitations on immigrant visas for areas with high unemployment;
- Temporary pilot program for 10,000 additional visas for regional economic development, subject to the labor certification process;
- Discretion to prioritize employment-based nonimmigrant visas based on offered wages;
- Eliminating the requirement of non-immigrant intent for F-1 students pursuing a full course of study;
- Establishing age-out protections for H-4 dependent children who were younger than 18 years when first granted non-immigrant status;
- Eligibility for EAD work authorization for both spouses and children in H-4 status; and
- Max-out protections and eligibility for status extensions in 1-year increments and work authorization for F-1, H-1B, L-1 and O-1 visa holders with a PERM labor certification or I-140 immigrant petition filed more than 365 days ago.
Gibney will continue to monitor developments, and will work with clients to analyze the impact on foreign national employees.