Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrants
There are more than 11 million people in the United States who are currently out of status and who are living in shadows. Most of them illegally crossed the borders of the country and some overstayed their non-immigrant visas and settled in the country. Nevertheless, there are some young undocumented immigrants who crossed the borders of the country through no fault on their part and they are the DREAMers who were brought to the country by their parents and guardians. These undocumented immigrants have now become a part of the country and most of them would become stateless is they are removed from the United States. After years of talk, the Senators have now come up with an immigration reform legislation that would legalize such unauthorized residents and grant them US citizenship.
Eight Senators worked together and crafted S. 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This immigration reform bill has not yet been passed by the US Congress and the bill must be passed by the Senate and the House for the President to sign it into law. This bill would establish a road-map to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants. Nevertheless, the path to citizenship may not be an easy one. Undocumented immigrants to become eligible for US citizenship, must wait for 13 long years. They must first become temporary residents and then become lawful permanent residents after ten years. Three years after obtaining Green Cards, they can apply for US citizenship. Nevertheless, this would happen only if the Senate bill is passed and if the border security triggers are met.
This immigration reform bill would create a new status called, Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status and eligible undocumented immigrants who came to the country before 2012, would be granted authorization to apply for this status. Before applying for this temporary RPI status, unauthorized residents who believe that they are eligible must come out and undergo criminal background checks and establish that they are not criminals. Similarly, they must pay fines and their back taxes. Initially, while applying for RPI status, they must pay a $500 penalty and the required form filing fees. Registered Provisional Immigrant status would be good for 6 years and it would be renewable. Undocumented immigrants who seek to become permanent residents must live in the country as Registered Provisional Immigrants for ten long years. Hence, they need to renew their RPI status after six years, by filing applications for renewal along with a $500 penalty and the required form filing fee.
The next step is applying for permanent resident status and after ten years they can file applications for Green Cards. At that time, they would be required to pay a $1000 penalty and file the required forms. Nevertheless, applications filed by all the undocumented immigrants for the temporary status and for permanent resident status would not be accepted and applications would be accepted only if the applicants are found to be eligible for legal status in America. At the same time, we need to remember that the immigrants who are ineligible for temporary status would not be permitted to remain in the country. Hence, the undocumented immigrants, if eligible can initially apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant status. After living in the country for ten years in this status, they can apply for Green Cards. Finally, they can apply for US citizenship, three years after obtaining permanent resident status. Hence, the wait time to obtain US citizenship is 13 years. Currently, undocumented immigrants cannot apply for legal status. They need to wait until the immigration reform bill is signed into law and until the USCIS creates new forms and systems for accepting applications, to apply for legal status.