When Joe Biden took office on January 20th, one of the things he made clear was that there would be sweeping policy changes regarding immigration in the United States. As the days and weeks progressed, President Biden expressed that he would accomplish much of this in his first 100 days in office. As we move into the third month of his presidency, we know that the new president plans to send the US Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress in an attempt to modernize our immigration system. So, what is the latest news?
President Biden Reverses the Former President’s Ban on Legal Immigration
Under the Trump administration, officials halted the process of new immigrations until the end of 2020. The former president indicated that he did this to protect the job market for citizens of the US due to the job loss that occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as his order was set to expire at the end of December, however, Trump extended the restrictions until the end of March.
The order did not stand long, however. The new president lifted the restrictions on issuing green cards. President Biden has stated that he doesn’t feel that closing this particular door advances the interest of the country, rather harms it by keeping families separated.
2021 Will See More Green Cards Issued
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has conducted research that indicates upwards of 120,000 family-based visas were blocked by the Trump freeze. His order also put a halt to thousands of foreign nationals receiving their green card through the visa lottery. Further, the order stopped immigrants with employment-based visas from entering the country.
Unfortunately, the temporary ban on green cards former President Trump put in place has only served to increase the ever-growing backlog of green card applications. It is estimated that there are currently as many as 473,000 family-based visas awaiting processing.
Foreign Citizens Question When They Will Be Able to Enter the Country
With the changes that have occurred since inauguration day, many foreign nationals around the world are wondering when the US will complete processing of their applications and whether they will be able to enter the country any time soon. Ned Price, spokesperson for the State Department, made an official statement that diversity visa recipients who hold unexpired, valid visas may seek entry into the United States immediately, noting that a blanket national interest exception covers them.
Under the current laws, however, the majority of individuals who could not attain their green cards before the window closed, as well as those whose visas have expired, will need to start the green card application process all over. These applicants, many of whom received declination statements as a result of the Trump administration’s order, also did not qualify for a waiver on their visa before inauguration day. This means they must start again with a new green card application and pay new application and processing fees.
What Does This Mean for the Pathway to Citizenship?
President Biden’s proposed US Citizenship Act of 2021 details an 8-year pathway to citizenship for individuals who live in the US with no legal status and were in the country before the beginning of January 2021. This plan is laid out in two phases, the first of which grants temporary legal status to these individuals and allows them to file for permanent residency after five years. During the first phase, individuals must fulfill various requirements such as paying taxes and clearing background checks. The green card holders who fulfill these obligations and demonstrate knowledge of US civics and English may apply to become US citizens in the second phase.
Agricultural workers who have acted as essential workers during the pandemic, temporary protected status (TPS) recipients, and Dreamers are three of the primary groups that could see immediate benefits from President Biden’s legislation. These individuals have already begun the immigration process via programs such as DACA, employment-based visas, and TPS work authorization, so many of them will not need to start at the beginning to apply for a green card.
A Knowledgeable New York City Immigration Attorney Can Help
The process of attaining a green card can be complicated and overwhelming, and any error could result in declination. The new administration is making significant headway in changing our immigration system for the better, but there are sure to be many changes in the coming months and years. If you are facing the road to citizenship but fear you may encounter issues that require legal assistance, the team at the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler has the skill set to put your fears to rest. Reach out to us today through the contact page on our website to see what we can do for you.