On February 18, 2021, the United States Citizenship Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives as a comprehensive immigration reform bill that President Biden said would “restore justice, humanity, and order to our immigration system.”
The 353-page bill follows through on a number of President Biden’s campaign promises, including a direct path to citizenship for “Dreamers” – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children – as well as restructuring the employment-based immigration process and reforming the family-based immigration system.
Key provisions in the proposed legislation of particular interest to employers include the following:
- Increases the number of employment-based green cards available from 140,000 to 170,000 annually and recaptures unused employment-based green card numbers from fiscal years 1992-2020.
- Removes numerical limitations for immigrants with approved visa petitions who have been waiting more than 10 years to adjust status.
- Eliminates per country caps for employment-based immigrants starting in FY 2022.
- Exempts U.S. doctoral STEM graduates from the numerical limitations.
- Creates a regional economic development pilot program allowing for an additional 10,000 immigrants annually, based on local economic development strategies.
- During times of high unemployment, authorizes the DHS and DOL to temporarily reduce the admission of EB-2 and EB-3 immigrants in certain “geographic areas or labor market sectors.”
- Increases the number of immigrant visas in the “other workers” employment category from 10,000 to 40,000.
- Expands work authorization for H-4 visa holders to include spouses and children.
- Provides for additional extensions in one-year increments to individuals with F-1, H-1B, L, and O visa status if their immigrant visa petitions or labor certifications have been pending for over one year.
- Authorizes the prioritization of H-1B visas based on the wages offered to the employee.
In addition, the proposed legislation seeks to eliminate the use of the term “aliens” to describe immigrants and replace it with “noncitizens” in all federal immigration laws.