On President Biden’s first day in office, he outlined a bold immigration plan that he plans to send to Congress this week or next week. I highlight in this note, two components of that immigration plan that are significant, which are (1) the eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and (2) the elimination of the three- and ten-year bars to entry.
Eight-Year Path to Citizenship
Under Biden’s immigration plan, a path to residency and then to citizenship would be provided to over eleven million undocumented immigrants present in the United States on January 1, 2021. In order to obtain permanent residency, an undocumented individual would need to pay a penalty, pass a background check, pay taxes, and meet other requirements. After obtaining residency, those persons can then obtain U.S. citizenship in three years. While the details of the plan still need to be ironed out, these are the general outlines of the plan.
Elimination of Three- and Ten-Year Bars to Entry
Under current immigration law, any person who accrues “unlawful presence” in the United States cannot re-enter the U.S. for significant periods of time. The law provides that an immigrant who enters the U.S. and stays beyond their authorized period of admission, is deemed to be accruing unlawful presence or, is an "overstay." Individuals who accrue more than 180 days of unlawful presence are prohibited from re-entry to the U.S. for three years and those individuals who accrue more than one year of unlawful presence are prohibited from re-entry for ten years. This is problematic because, in most cases, in order to change status to another nonimmigrant category or to adjust status to permanent resident, the applicant cannot be unlawfully present in the U.S. However, prior to the enactment of the three- and ten-year bar, if the individual left the U.S. and re-entered on a legitimate status, then he or she could change or adjust status. Yet, because of the three- and ten-year bars, many of those individuals cannot come back to the U.S. for at least three or ten years. Elimination of this law would give relief to those individuals that cannot change or adjust status, but who want to legalize their situation in the U.S.