The Senate Immigration Bill: New Options for Legal Immigrants

June 26, 2013

While much of the debate over immigration reform has focused on border security and the pathway to citizenship, the Senate’s proposed legislation (S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act) would also affect many current and prospective legal immigrants were it to become law. Proposed changes include:

Introducing a merit-based point system
Applicants would score points primarily based on their education level and work history, with additional points available based on civic involvement, English-language skills, age, family ties, and nationality. Applicants would be ranked by point total within one of two tiers, and visas would be made available based on ranking within each tier.

Eliminating backlogs (eventually)
The goal would be to eliminate the backlogs of all currently pending permanent residence applications by 2021.

No more country-specific limits for employment-based immigration
Current law has resulted in years-long waits for employment-based applicants from India and China.

Spouses and children of current Permanent Residents can apply for green cards
The new law would allow immediate relatives (spouses and children) of current Permanent Residents to immediately apply for green cards, and they would not be counted against visa caps.

Eliminating categories for siblings and married children over 30 of U.S. citizens
They would have to use the merit- or employment-based avenues if they want to immigrate.

Cap exemptions for immigrants with highly-desired skills
Graduates of U.S. universities with advances STEM degrees, physicians who work in undeserved areas, immigrants with “extraordinary ability,” and multinational executives would not be counted against visa caps. STEM graduates would also be exempt from the PERM Labor Certification process.

The above was compiled from The Immigration Policy Center’s excellent Guide To S.744, which summarizes the entire bill in easy-to-understand detail. S.744 looks likely to be passed by the Senate later this week, but immigration reform still faces the difficult challenge of getting a bill through the Republican-controlled House.


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