What You Need to Know about Immigration Reform

Proposed Legislation

Although no laws or legislation have yet been any enacted on immigration reform the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the President are making major moves for comprehensive immigration reform. The immigration law firm of Peek & Toland, PLLC is dedicated to informing you of all the latest news on immigration reform. If you have any questions about what the latest developments in immigration reform mean for you, feel free to contact our experienced Austin immigration attorneys by calling (512) 474-4445.

On June 27, 2013 the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The entire bill is 844 pages long, so we have provided a link to not only the entire final draft of the bill, but also an English-only outline of the bill (17 pages).

On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced that he would take executive action to “fix the broken immigration system.”

More details about the Senate bill and Obama’s executive action can be found below.

U.S. Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill

On June 27, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed its immigration reform bill, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. As of December 20, 2014, the vote by Congress is still pending.

The immigration reform bill includes four main pillars, which include:

  1. Creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that pay a fine and taxes, pass a background check, learn English, and wait in line;
  2. Strengthening border security with the addition of 20,000 more Border Patrol agents;
  3. Cracking down on companies that hire undocumented immigrants; and
  4. Keeping families together and boosting the economy by making the legal immigration process simpler.

Registered Provisional Immigrant Status Explained

The immigration reform bill includes a new status for non-citizen immigrants known as the Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. This new status will allow undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. the opportunity to become eligible to work and live in the U.S. legally. The immigration reform bill also includes provisions allowing those who have previously been deported to potentially re-enter the U.S. legally as a RPI. Those who maintain RPI status for the required time period under the bill will be eligible to adjust to Lawful Permanent Resident Status. To learn more about how to determine your eligibility for RPI status, visit our page called “Do I Qualify?”

H-1B Visa & W Visa: Protecting Rights of Workers

Additionally, the immigration reform bill includes a new cap on H-1B visas increasing it from the current 65,000 visas per year to 110,000 visas per year. In the future, the cap may go as high as 180,000. Furthermore, the bill proposes to crack down on abusers of the H-1B system by penalizing “H-1B dependent employers” with significantly higher wages and fees than “normal” users of the program.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start accepting H-1B visa petitions on April 1, 2015. It is highly recommended that all interested and qualified parties start planning now for recruitment and salary negotiations.

In addition to the above changes, the bill introduces a new W-visa program aimed at increasing the number of lower-skilled workers in the U.S. to perform jobs in labor and other fields. The W-visa will allow 20,000 authorized foreign unskilled labor workers to live and work in the U.S. in the first year, and the cap will increase significantly in succeeding years. Additionally, the W-visa will create increased protections for unskilled labor through various worker protections, including minimum wage and working condition requirements. W-visa holders will have the right to make complaints against employers who treat workers unfairly, fail to pay them, or who threaten them.

E-Verify & Employer Obligations

Finally, the immigration reform bill includes a new employment verification system known as E-Verify. E-Verify is an electronic system that notifies employers if their employees are authorized to work in the U.S. or have valid social security numbers. Those employees who are unauthorized to work in the U.S. will show up in the system as unauthorized and employers will be prohibited from hiring those employees. As a part of the immigration reform bill, all employers will be required to use the E-Verify system and will be phased in to the system over a five year period.

Employers with 5,000 or more employees will be phased into E-Verify within two years; those with more than 500 employees will be phased in within three years; and all employers, including agricultural employers, will be phased in within four years.

To attain employment, immigrant employees will be required to show a biometric work authorization card, or a biometric green card, which will include a photo of the worker. Every E-Verify system will verify that photo of the worker on his or her biometric card to the photo in the E-Verify system. If the photo on the biometric card matches the photo in the database exactly, then the employer will be legally able to hire the employee.

To learn more about how the immigration reform bill will affect you personally, enter your name and contact information in the form below. If the U.S. House passes the immigration reform bill and the President signs it in to law, Reforma2013.com will send you information on the application dates, the announcements, and all the necessary information you need to begin your application process.

The U.S. House of Representatives Immigration Reform Bill Framework

The U.S. House of Representatives has taken a multi-bill approach to immigration reform. Instead of proposing just one comprehensive bill, like the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House is proposing several bills aimed at resolving separate issues affecting immigration reform. So far, the U.S. House has not made much leeway with gaining support for any of its proposed bills.

If you would like to know how the immigration reform bill could affect you or if you qualify for immigration now, please contact our office by filling out the form to the right of this page, or by calling (512) 474-4445. Peek & Toland, PLLC is an immigration law firm dedicated to helping our clients with the immigration process.

President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration Reform

On November 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation in a speech in which he outlined his plan to take executive action on immigration reform. President Obama’s speech acknowledged the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. who are currently living without any status. President Obama firmly announced in his address that he would offer up the following proposals:

  1. Crack down on illegal immigration at the border
  2. Deport felons, not families
  3. Hold certain undocumented immigrants accountable by requiring they pass a background check and pay taxes
  4. Streamline legal immigration to promote naturalization and boost economy

To read, President Obama’s full speech on immigration reform click here: President’s Remarks on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

To hear President Obama’s full speech on immigration reform, watch the video below.