Article by: Robert A. Kravitz, Esq
The recent Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill which was recently introduced in in the Senate would make significant changes in the existing family-based immigration “preference” system.
The number of available family-based “green cards” would fall from 226,000 to 161,000 annually. However, by expanding the “immediate relative” category, the bill would increase family-based immigration overall. In addition, all unused family-based numbers from fiscal years 1992 to 2013 would be added to the fiscal year 2015 quota which starts on October 1, 2014.
The worldwide level for family-based immigrant visas would be allocated as follows:
1) Unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. citizens – 35%
2) Married sons or daughters of USCs under 31 years of age at the time of filing – 25%
3) Unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs – 40%
Persons in the 2A preference category (spouses and children of lawful permanent residents) would be added to “immediate relative” category (joining parents, spouses and children of U.S. citizens) and would not be subject to numerical restrictions. Under this “non-preference” definition, if they entered the U.S. lawfully, they would be permitted to apply for permanent residence in the U.S. even if they overstayed their temporary status or worked without authorization.
The bill would, for the first time, allow the “derivative” beneficiaries of immediate relatives to obtain permanent residence along with the principals. Example: Currently, if an adult U.S. citizen sponsors his parents and his 10-year-old sister for green cards, only the parents are considered immediate relatives and may immigrate without numerical limitations. The sister must be petitioned for under the 4th preference category and is subject to the numerical restrictions. She will be separated from her parents and will have to wait many years to qualify for a green card. Under the bill, the sister would be considered a derivative beneficiary of her parents and would be able immigrate together with them.
The per-country cap would be raised from 7% to 15%. This would greatly benefit persons born in the Philippines and Mexico who currently are subject to the longest family-based waiting times.
The bill would restrict the filing of new petitions under the 3rd preference category (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) so that parents would be limited to sponsoring only their married sons and daughters who are 30 years old or younger on the date that the petition is filed.
Also, the bill would completely eliminate the filing of new petitions under the 4th preference category (brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens).
Since these changes only apply to future petitions, if you are a U.S. citizen, the time to sponsor your married sons and daughters and your brothers and sisters is now before the bill becomes law!
Currently, stepchildren are allowed to be sponsored only if the marriage creating the stepparent relationship occurred before the child’s 18th birthday. The bill would change this to the child’s 21st birthday. Also, the age requirement for an adopted child is raised from 16 to 18. Children who “age-out” of derivative beneficiary status (i.e., because they turn 21) would retain the priority date of the original petition and would automatically convert to the 2B category as soon as their parents are admitted as permanent residents.
In addition, the bill would allow the following beneficiaries of approved family-based petitions to obtain “V” visas to live and work in the U.S. while waiting for their priority dates to become current:
1) Unmarried adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and permanent residents; and
2) Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens who were 30 years old or less when the petition was submitted.
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