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On the first day of his presidency, Joe Biden is sending to Congress his marker for an overhaul of the U.S. Immigration Laws. See link to summary here.

The Biden administration proposes broad changes that will impact immigration law across the board and will also have a significant impact on business immigration if ultimately passed by Congress.

The U.S. Citizenship Act will:

  • Provide a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants who have a destabilized status in the United States, including DACA recipients, essential workers, and TPS holders
  • Provide relief to employment and family immigrant visa backlogs
  • Address the causes of illegal migration

Some of the key details of the legislation that will be important in the business immigration context include:

Earned Permanent residence status and Path to Citizenship

  • Create a path to earn permanent residence and citizenship for certain undocumented individuals. Individuals would apply for legal status or green card lawful permanent resident status for five years and then for more permanent green card status after three years. They would need to pass background checks and pay taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and agricultural immigrant workers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Reducing Family Visa Backlogs. The proposal would clear backlogs, recapture unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times.
  • The proposal would allow immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States in a temporary status while they wait for green cards to become available.
  • Employment-Based immigrant backlogs. This proposal would clear employment-based visa backlogs, recapture unused visas, and eliminate per-country visa caps. The proposal would exempt graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees from immigrant visa caps.
  • The proposal creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development, by giving DHS the authority to adjust immigrant visa numbers based on economic conditions

This bold legislative proposal is the new administration’s wish list for immigration reform. Congress will now need to take the initiative to craft an immigration bill that can pass both the Senate and the House. Congress has taken up the Comprehensive Immigration Reform challenge over the last two decades. The most recent piece of legislation was S. 744, passed during the Obama administration in 2013. The legislation was passed by the Senate but ultimately was never taken up the House of Representatives.

The complex issue of non-immigrant visas such as H-1B, L-1, H-2B, and any new visa category for the future flow of workers has not been addressed by the Biden proposal and will need to be part of the debate.

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Photo of Laura Foote Reiff‡ Laura Foote Reiff‡

Laura Foote Reiff Co-Chairs the Business Immigration & Compliance Practice and is the Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office. She also Co-Chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. Laura focuses her practice on business immigration

Laura Foote Reiff Co-Chairs the Business Immigration & Compliance Practice and is the Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office. She also Co-Chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. Laura focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies, as well as related employment compliance and legislative issues.

Laura advises corporations on a variety of compliance-related issues, particularly related to Form I-9 eligibility employment verification matters. Laura has been involved in audits and internal investigations and has successfully minimized monetary exposure as well as civil and criminal liabilities on behalf of her clients. She develops immigration compliance strategies and programs for both small and large companies. Laura performs I-9, H-1B and H-2B compliance inspections during routine internal reviews, while performing due diligence (in the context of a merger, acquisition or sale) or while defending a company against a government investigation.

Laura represents many businesses in creating, managing and using “Regional Centers” that can create indirect jobs toward the 10 new U.S. jobs whose creation can give rise to EB-5 permanent residence for investment. She coordinates this work with attorneys practicing in securities law compliance, with economists identifying “targeted employment areas” and projecting indirect job creation, and with licensed securities brokers coordinating offerings. She also represents individual investors in obtaining conditional permanent residence and in removing conditions from permanent residence.

Laura’s practice also consists of managing business immigration matters and providing immigration counsel to address the visa and work authorization needs of U.S. and global personnel including professionals, managers and executives, treaty investors/ traders, essential workers, persons of extraordinary ability, corporate trainees, and students. She is an immigration policy advocacy expert and works on immigration reform policies.

Admitted in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Not admitted in Virginia. Practice limited to federal immigration practice.