Biden administration has sent a Fact Sheet / Bill called “US Citizenship Act of 2021” to Congress on day one to address many of the pressing immigration issues. This is NOT the Official Bill release by Congress, rather a collection of topics that are priority for Biden Administration.
The Bill sent by WhiteHouse to Congress covers a broad range of immigration areas, but in interest of our blog readers, we will focus on areas of H1B Visa, H4 EAD, Green Card per country caps, age out of kids, other relevant topics. Let’s dive in.
On Feb 18th, 2021, Official Bill was introduced in Congress that has many aspects discussed in this article. This Official Bill is based on Biden immigration plan that was sent by them on Day 1 in their office. Read Summary of Official Bill – US Citizenship Act of 2021
Before we jump in, I want to make sure, you all understand the reality and take whatever you read with a pinch of salt. Read the below note.
Important Note: This is only a bill (document) that is sent to Congress by Biden Administration. It is not an Official US Congress Bill yet. There is no number yet. It has a long way to go. It needs to be introduced in House, Senate, go through all the Steps of How a Bill becomes Law in US. What you see below is a big wish list of items from Administration, but many of them may or may not make it in the final congress bill or many changes may come in. So, think of these a laundry list of all wishes by current administration.
Background – US Citizenship Act of 2021 – What’s all in it ?
Biden Administration focused on Immigration a lot in their presidential campaign and promised a lot on what they would deliver once they take office. As per their promise, on day one, they have sent a big Bill (document) with a lot of items related to immigration that includes their campaign promises on changes to US immigration system. Below are the broad areas in the Bill that was sent to US Congress.
- Path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holder and immigrant farmworkers
- Changes to family-based immigration
- Increase Diversity Lottery Visas
- Programs to help refugees integrate in society, help with citizenship
- Grow economy with changes to Employment based visa system
- Protect Immigrants from exploitation, improve employment verification
- Improver border controls with technology
- Manage Borders better, Protect border communities
- Crackdown the smuggling & trafficking, criminal organizations
- Address root cause of migration from Central America, help them.
- Improve Immigration courts process, protect vulnerable individuals.
- Help asylum seekers & increase protection for U & T Visas, VAWA applicants.
Now that we have an overall idea on the background and what all topics it covers, let focus on areas relevant to our readers.
Employment Based Green Cards (EB1, EB2, EB3)
Below are the various topics related to the employment based green cards and the asks in the Bill for the same.
- Remove per-country Visa caps: Currently, there is a limit on how many green cards are given to a country. The bill would eliminate the same. There are no details on how this would be accomplished, this would be worked out by Congress members. This is the nothing but goal of S386 & HR 1044 Green Card Bills from 2020.
- Adjust Green Card numbers based on macroeconomic conditions: Currently, the Green Card numbers are fixed for employment based at 140,000. The Bill asks to give DHS the authority to adjust the green card numbers based on macro-economic conditions. No specifics on this, it is going to be up to congress how they define guidelines for DHS.
- Clear Visa Backlogs: Employment based Green Cards are backlogged quite a bit for countries like India, China and the Bill would like to clear the visa backlog for the same. The final bill by Congress would have mechanisms to clear the backlog. Those details are not laid out. It is up to the Congress members to work out the details.
- Recapture unused Visas: Currently, if the employment based green cards are not used in a year due to processing delays by USCIS, they expire. With this Bill they would like to recapture those that are not used by having some mechanism to roll over. Again, details are not laid out clearly. These will be worked out by Congress members
- Lower Wage workers Green Cards: There are many lower wage workers, who are sponsored green cards. The bill asks for improved access to Green Cards for such low wage workers. It is up to Congress on how they would interpret this and give suggestions.
- Reduce Lengthy wait times: The Employment based green card wait times are really long for certain countries like India, China. The bill would like to reduce the lengthy wait times. There are no specifics laid out, those will be worked out by the Congress.
- Eliminate Unnecessary Hurdles for Employment based Green Cards: The Bill calls for eliminating unnecessary hurdles for Employment based Green Card holders. It does not give any specifics on what those hurdles are. Probably their intention is to make it smoother in terms of overall process, without too much wait times and process hassle. We need to see how Congress interprets this and takes care of the same.
You may watch the below YouTube Video as well on this topic.
H1B Visa Quota Cap, Lottery, Wage Levels
Below are the topics that are relevant to the H1B work visa holders.
- Incentivize Higher Wages for non-immigrant, high skilled visas: The Bill asks to give DHS the authority to give priority or incentives for high wage non-immigrant, high skilled workers like H1B Visa. Their goal is to make sure US workers are not impacted due to low wages of non-immigrants and they become a threat for them in labor market. They want prioritized merit-based immigration based on wages similar to H1B Wage Levels Final Rule that was published by Trump Administration. We need to wait for Congress to see, what they come up with on this.
- H1B Quota Cap, Program Changes: There is no mention of any changes to H1B Visa quota or changes to the H1B visa program. It does not talk about addressing the H1B Lottery situation based on historical H1B cap reach dates & high demand. There were some talks in the previous Obama administration to increase the cap count to 110K
EAD for H1B Dependents – H4 Spouse & Children
Currently, the Employment authorization(EAD) for H4 spouses, who are dependents of H1B holders, is not part of any Congress legislation. It was introduced by DHS during Obama administration. Due to DHS regulation and no US Congress backing, there have been lawsuits on H4 EAD that are dragged for over 5 years. The administration goal is to make sure the work authorization for H4 Visa holders becomes part of Congress legislation, so that it cannot be challenged in court. Also, currently, the EAD is only for spouses and does not include children. This bill asks EAD for dependent children as well.
Prevent Children from aging out
Currently, when dependent children 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”. This is a huge problem for many dependent kids. The Bill asks to prevent children from “aging out”. Though there is Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), it does not do enough to protect everyone. Essentially, they are asking for mechanism to either lock-in the age of children for Green Card eligibility or give other provisions, so that children do not age out. Again, the details will have to be sorted out by the congress.
F1 Visa – STEM Degree Graduates
The goal of the bill is to retain US Universities Graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics(STEM) areas in US and not leave to other countries. It calls for provisions to make it easier for US Universities graduates with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the country. They say advanced degree, so it could include PhD or maybe even Masters. We do not have any specifics at this point on what needs to be done. It is up to Congress on how they would interpret this and give options to retain US graduates with advanced degrees in STEM categories.
Pilot Program to stimulate regional Economic Development
It talks about a program to improved regional economic development. In other countries there are programs that are geared towards development of regions that are not developed as metros. It is likely around that, there are no specifics on this. We need to see what congress comes up with.
As you have read, many of these are really big changes and have not been able to get bipartisan support in the past. Now that democrats control both House and Senate, they have far more better chance to pass some of these, if not everything. We need to wait and see, what really comes out after this bill reaches Congress. We will keep you all posted.
What do you think of the Bill Text and priorities by Biden? How many would make it ?
Below is the actual Biden Bill text that was sent to Congress. It is not available on the Whitehouse.gov due to some redirect issue.