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New Family Based Immigration Proposals In Senate Bill

Updated on May 31, 2014

The US Immigration system is set to receive a major overhaul, with the passing of a new and historic immigration bill. The bill is the first major reform to the US immigration in several decades, since the 1986 amnesty bill. While the Senate bill expands immigration access to several categories including asylum seekers, temporary workers and undocumented immigrants, there are several cuts proposed in existing family based immigration.

Current family based immigration rules

The present guidelines of the Immigration and Nationality Act allow foreigners to immigrate to the US based on their relationship with a legal permanent resident (a green card holder) or a US citizen. As long as the relationship can be proved, petitions for the immigration of the following relatives may be made.

US Citizens can make petitions for the following:

Wife or husband
Unmarried child below 21 years
Unmarried daughter or son above 21 years
Married daughter of son irrespective of age
Sibling(s), if you are above 21 years
Parent(s), if you are above 21 years

Green card holders on the other hand have limited immigration sponsorship allowance for relatives. They not allowed to sponsor parents, married children or siblings for permanent residence in the US. Green card holders can petition for the following relatives:

Wife or husband
Unmarried child below 21 years old
Unmarried daughter or son above 21 years old

New Potential Cuts in Family Based Immigration

With the new bill, family-based visas for siblings will be eliminated. At present, 65,000 visas are given out each year to siblings, on the basis of the family immigration guidelines. If the Senate bill is passed, these will no longer be given out. This is a clause that has been much criticized by vocal supporters of reform in immigration. The Bill will also eliminate the approval of visas for adult married children of US Citizens who are above the age of 31.

This doesn't necessarily mean that siblings will have no option for settling in the US, but only that it will become extremely difficult for them to obtain visas. The system of awarding visas will be merit-based, with 250,000 visas being allocated annually based on several qualifications including education, family relationships and employment among others. According to the system, siblings and adult married children will be given low preference.

Potential ease of other Family Based Immigration with the Proposed Bill

On the flip side of the major cuts in family immigration, there will also be benefits for some other categories of
potential family based immigrants to the US. The spouses and minor or unmarried children of US citizens and green card holders will have less trouble immigrating to the US. Rather than having to go through the current waiting periods for visas, they will be able to immediately obtain visas.

After the bill is passed, the changes will be phased in within a period of 18 months. However immigration reform supporters and critics of several points on the bill need not despair just yet. While the Bill has been passed by the bipartisan Senate, it is yet to move forward in the Republican-controlled house.


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