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New immigration bill reaches House floor

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New immigration bill reaches House floor


Representative Linda Sanchez introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (USCA) to the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 18, 2021.

The bill aims “to provide an earned path to citizenship, to address the root causes of migration and responsibly manage the southern border, and to reform the immigrant visa system.” The legislation, if passed by the House and Senate, would introduce the biggest changes to immigration law since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The following is a breakdown of some of the bill’s highlights.

Pathways to Citizenship

Perhaps the biggest change the bill would make is with respect to permanent residence under Section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The bill would amend Section 245 to allow for four new pathways to residency and U.S. citizenship. First, the bill would cover non-citizens physically present in the U.S. on or before Jan. 1, 2021. Individuals who departed the United States on or after Jan.20, 2017 but before Jan. 1, 2021 and who could prove they were in the United States for three years prior to their departure may qualify for a waiver of the January 1, 2021 physical presence requirement. The bill seems to only cover individuals who had no lawful immigration status on Jan. 1, 2021.

Lawful Immigration Status

The first benefit category created by the bill would be the newly-enacted “lawful prospective immigrant” (LPI) status,  renewable for six-year terms. LPIs would be entitled to live, work and travel in and out of the United States. LPIs would also be able to apply for permanent residency five years after obtaining LPI status, contingent upon their ability to pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Other requirements and obligations have yet to be specified.

Residency and Citizenship for Dreamers

The next major change the bill creates is a pathway to permanent residency and U.S. citizenship for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and other individuals who entered the United States as children. The USCA would allow any non-citizen who came to the United States as a minor to apply for permanent residency, along with their spouse and children, if they have: (1) graduated from high school or obtained a GED, (2) registered for the Selective Service if needed and (3) finished some university course work, served in the U.S. military and/or earned income for at least three years. Current DACA holders would be immediately eligible for permanent residency under USCA.

Residency for TPS Holders and Agricultural Workers

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders since January 1, 2017, including their spouse and children, would also become eligible for permanent residency under USCA. Beneficiaries under Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) would also qualify. Certain agricultural workers would also become eligible for permanent residency.

Additional Key Changes

The bill seeks to increase Diversity Visas, clear visa backlogs and long wait times, bring back the Family Unity program that helped keep families together during long case processing times, supplement border patrol resources and communities, crack down on criminal organizations, improve the immigration courts, help asylum seekers and try to find the root cause behind undocumented migration.


The USCA is still in its infancy stages.. It must still go through a vote at both the House and the Senate before making its way to President Biden for ratification. However, the bill is a potential lifeline for the estimated ten million or more undocumented non-citizens in the United States. The bill gives hundreds of thousands of individuals with temporary immigration benefits hope for a permanent solution.

Here at Ibrahim Law Office, we will keep our eyes on the developments of this new and exciting bill. Contact us if you or a loved one have any questions about an immigration case.

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