Comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in Senate. Hearing scheduled for 4/22.

On Wednesday, April 16, 2013, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill, titled “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”  The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on the new proposed legislation for April 22, 2013. Tune in at the Committee’s website to listen to the webcast.  The bill will go through a markup procedure where any Senator on the Committee can offer amendments. If the bill secures the majority of the votes on the Committee, it will move on to the Senate floor.  It is anticipated that the bill will be subject to a prolonged and heated debate.
Here are some of the major provisions of this bill, as introduced.

Legalization for unlawfully present citizens. Those who were in the U.S. without immigration status before December 31, 2011, would be able to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status; they would have work authorization and be able to travel.  After ten years in RPI status, they would be able to get a green card and, after another three years, become U.S. citizens.

Family-based immigration. Currently, spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents are not considered “immediate relatives,” which means they are subject to numeric visa limitations when applying for a green card and have to wait years to get to the front of the line. The bill would change this category of individuals to “immediate relative” category allowing families to avoid separation and apply for adjustment of status immediately.  The bill caps the age of unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens at 31 and eliminates the fourth category (brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens).  The bill also brings back the V visa (visas for children and spouses of lawful permanent residents).

Employment-based immigration.  Increases quotas for H-1B visas to a floor of $110,000 and a ceiling of 180,000, allows employment for spouses of H-1B workers and allows a 60-day grace period if the employee has been terminated from the job.  EB-1 immigrants, persons with doctoral degrees, and physicians who have completed the foreign residency requirements would be exempt from quota. The bill would also create a new category of visas for certain entrepreneurs and a set of new visas for less skilled and agricultural workers.

These are only a few highlights of the proposed 844-page comprehensive bill.  We will continue to post updates on this bill and will provide in-depth analysis of the final provisions if and when it passes.