Yesterday, March 18, 2021, US House of Representatives passed a Bill called ‘American Dream and Promise Act of 2021’. This bill is not new and was passed in previous 116th congress as H.R.6 in House, but never got attention in US Senate and was a dead bill in past. The big difference now with the current version of H.R.6 Bill passed in House is that it has additional provisions added for kids on H4, L2 visa, including kids of E1 & E2 visa holders, who would age out for getting green card in US. In this article, we will look at the background, specific details relevant for kids of H1, L1, E1 & E2 visa holders’ kids.
Background of current Bill H.R.6 for year 2021
In the previous version of H.R.6 bill from previous Congress session, the focus was primarily on providing a path for getting citizenship to immigrants, who were brought into the US as minors. The current version of HR6 bill called as “American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, in addition to previous bill text, has added new provisions for H4, L2 kids who would age out at the age of 21. These kids are called as “Legal Dreamers” by some. The Bill HR 6 was passed in the US House of Representatives by a vote of 228 to 197 on March 18th, 2021.
Currently, when dependent children on H4 or L2 apply for green card as a child and if they turn 21 before their green card is approved, they are no longer categorized as a child for green card issuance. This situation is called “aging out”. Also, they lose their dependent H4 or L2 status by 21 years and need to either convert to other visa status like F1 student visa to continue education or leave the country. The current bill addresses this age out situation and difficulty to move to other status faced by kids on H4 or L2 visa.
Inclusion of Kids on H4, L2 visa in the current H.R.6 Bill
If you look at the page 3 and 4 of the Bill, as in below screenshot, it essentially translates to the text“…the son or daughter of non-immigrant visa holders on E1, E2, H1B, L visas…”. So, this confirms the inclusion of children on H4, L2 visas.
Requirements for H4, L2 kids for 10-year Conditional Green Card
The Bill says that, for the individuals included in main section of the bill, who are Dreamers, including the H4, L2 kids would be eligible for 10-year Conditional Green Card, if they meet certain conditions. Below are the high-level conditions that they need to meet:
- They need to be in the US since Jan 1, 2021. This technically means that anyone entering after Jan 1, 2021 are not eligible.
- They need to be 18 years or younger when they first entered US and have been in US continuously since then.
- Graduate from US high school or currently enrolled in US high school or College.
- Has not committed certain crimes on national security grounds. Basically, no criminal history.
Continuous presence Requirements:
In terms of continuous presence requirements, there are provisions that say that breaks of up to 90 days or 180 days in total are allowed. Also, if there are exceptions clauses in place where DHS can use discretion as needed, in case of health issues for H4, L2 holders, if parents or siblings have health issues or death situation, including processing delays, travel restrictions due to pandemic, etc.
Previously 4 years in US, left on or after Jan 20, 2017: Also, if the H4 or L2 kids were in US continuously for 4 years before leaving the US on or after Jan 20, 2017, DHS can waive the continuous presence requirement and consider them for the 10 year conditional green card.
No Green Cards Limit or Cap : There is no cap or limit on the Green Card numbers for that can be issued for anyone who meet the above requirements for H4, L2 kids.
Requirements to remove the Conditional Status of Green Card
The Bill says that the green card given for 10 years is on Conditional basis. To remove the conditions status, firstly they should have continuous residence in US and cannot abandon their presence in US.
In addition to the continuous presence, all of them, including H4, L2 children have to meet one of the below conditions to remove the conditional status:
- Has obtained a degree from US University or has studied at least 2 years in a program that gets the individual a bachelor or higher degree.
- Have served in US Armed forces for at least 2 years and had honorable discharge, if left the armed forces
- Had legal employment authorization for at least 75% of the time and earned income for at least 3 years, unless they were studying in college.
There are some hardship exceptions to remove the conditional status in place for certain individuals if they have disability, or if their removal will cause hardship for their family who are US citizens.
Chance of Passing American Dream and Promise Act 2021 ?
If we look at the bill, it added legal dreamers on H4, L2 visas, which is a positive thing and may get some support as it supports some parts of legal immigration. Also, the bill is not the big and comprehensive immigration bill like US Citizenship Act of 2021, it is more like a small piece of it. It has great support in House and has 175 co-sponsors of the bill. It was passed by 228 to 197. But, the support was more on party lines and only 9 republicans supported this bill.
Now, the situation for the Bill to pass in Senate is much tougher. The bill needs 60 votes to pass in Senate. It needs buy in from 10 Republican Senators. It can be very hard to get 10 additional Republican Senators to back this bill in Senate.
If you check How a Bill becomes Law in US, anyone in Senate can put a hold on a bill and add free riders to the bill that are not even relevant to the Bill. It is going to be very tough to negotiate and get 10 Republican Senators to be on-board to support this bill. There is Biden administration support for this Bill though as this is their second strategy to accomplish their bigger vision of comprehensive immigration reform…we need to wait and see what happens.
What do you think of the chances of the Bill in Senate ? Will it pass ? Add your thoughts in comments below.