The Pathway to Citizenship Begins to Take Shape

June 12, 2013

No one knows exactly what the provisions for the pathway to citizenship for the undocumented will look like, or even whether it will become law, but the chances that it will pass are becoming stronger. At the same time we can begin to see what the pathway to citizenship will encompass.  According to Senate Bill 744, which is likely to pass the Senate by late June, to qualify you will need to be an undocumented individual who:

  1. Has been in the United States since December 31, 2011;
  2. Has not been convicted of a felony or three misdemeanors;
  3. Has paid their accessed taxes;
  4. Is otherwise admissible under current law; and
  5. Pays certain penalty fees.

Once the bill passes both the Senate and the House and is signed into law by the President, there will be a period of up to one year to implement regulations before the provisions will take effect; the bill is therefore unlikely to actually be implemented until the summer of 2014 at the earliest.   At that time individuals who believe that they qualify will be able to register for the program by reporting to centers designated by the USCIS and the registration period will last one year.  During that time they will present their applications, and pay their initial fees, and several months after registering, if they are found to qualify, they will receive Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.

Under RPI status they will be eligible for employment in the U.S. and for travel outside the U.S.  They will also be eligible for federal means tested public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and benefits under the Affordable Care Act.  They would be given RPI status for an initial 6 year period and this status could then be renewed for an additional 6 years.   Under the Senate Bill, the plan would be that they would be eligible for full permanent resident status after 10 years, and citizenship after 13 years.  Young people who qualified for the “Dream Act” would also be eligible to register under this bill, but they would be eligible to become permanent residents after only 5 years in RPI status.   Spouses and children of RPI’s would also be eligible.  Under this Senate bill even individualswho have been deported but who meet all other requirements and have close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents may be permitted to reenter the U.S. and apply for RPI status.

The version of this bill under preliminary consideration in the House is similar to Senate version but slightly tougher.  If there are changes in the Senate Bill before it becomes law, the House version is likely to make the bill tougher in some respects, such as requiring higher penalties, tougher provisions on who qualifies, and requiring a longer period before one reaches permanent resident and ultimately citizenship status.

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