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  • Article: What Undocumented People Will Have To Do To Get Citizenship Through Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Tahmina Watson

    What Undocumented People Will Have To Do To Get Citizenship Through Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    by Tahmina Watson

    The newspaper USA Today, reported yesterday that they reviewed a draft immigration bill from the White House. They report that the President intends to create a “Lawful Prospective Resident” visa. The bill includes spouse and children (even living abroad) to benefit if legal status is obtained. The Bill will only be introduced if a suitable bill is not presented to Congress in a reasonable amount of time.

    USA Today reports the following on this issue:

    “According to the White House draft, people would need to pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. If approved, they would be allowed to legally reside in the U.S. for four years, work and leave the country for short periods of time. After the four years, they could then reapply for an extension.

    Illegal immigrants would be disqualified from the program if they were convicted of a crime that led to a prison term of at least one year, three or more different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail, or if they committed any offense abroad that “if committed in the United States would render the alien inadmissible or removable from the United States.”

    People currently in federal custody or facing deportation proceedings also could be allowed to apply for the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa. Application forms and instructions would be provided in “the most common languages spoken by persons in the United States,” but the application and all supporting evidence submitted to the federal government would have to be in English.

    They would also be given a new identification card to show as proof of their legal status in the country.

    The immigrants could then apply for legal permanent residence, commonly known as a green card, within eight years if they learn English and “the history and government of the United States” and pay back taxes. That would then clear the path for them to apply for U.S. citizenship.”

    While the eligibility criteria when it comes to criminal convictions may seem stringent (90 days or more in prison would be grounds for disqualification), the general principles are not too different from current immigration laws.  The President emphasized the need for backgrounds checks etc. in his recent inauguration speech,  speech in Las Vegas, in his State of the Union speech, and in the White House immigration fact sheet.

    I want to inform prospective undocumented immigrants as well as anyone who is unfamiliar with the immigration system, that these guidelines already exist.  Anyone who applies for a ‘green card’ or legal permanent residency, must already “pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees”.  Background checks at present have no backlogs and to the FBI’s credit, appear seamless   A  few years ago these background checks would take several months to clear, which added to lengthy processing times.  So, backgrounds checks are not new and are nothing to be afraid of.

    Similarly, to gain citizenship, people must already “learn English and “the history and government of the United States” and pay back taxes”.  Here is my story of gaining citizenship that describes the process a little. So, anyone unfamiliar with the process or anyone who has misapprehensions about the process, as well as any prospective citizens should know that these guidelines currently exist. We all had to go through the process and again, there is nothing to be afraid of.

    In sum, I think this bill, as reported, is reasonable and I would support it. As more information becomes available, I will be sure to share my thoughts!

    Orginally published on watsonimmigration.wordpress.com. Reprinted with permission.


    About The Author

    Tahmina Watson is an immigration attorney and founder of Watson Immigration Law in Seattle Washington. She was a practicing barrister in London, UK, before immigrating to the United States herself. While her practice includes family-based and employment-based immigration, she has a strong focus on immigrant entrepreneurs and start-up companies. She can be contacted at tahmina@watsonimmigrationlaw.com. You can visit www.watsonimmigrationlaw.com to learn about Tahmina and her practice.


    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. KeithBreading's Avatar
      KeithBreading -
      Once again everyone is bending over backwards to assist "undocumented immigrants" but what about the thousands of "documented immigrants" that are here with an E2 visa that cannot obtain a Green Card no matter how long they stay, pay taxes and generally contribute to the system and economy. Below is a letter I am sending to all my friends and clients.
      The plight of E2 Immigrants
      Dear friends,

      Many of you are aware of the way the US Immigration Service have treated Lena and I over the past few years but most Americans are quite oblivious to the unfairness of the system, particularly towards the holders of E2 visa’s. An E2 visa holder is a “Treaty Investor” who with their family came to America to run a business, employ Americans and pay taxes. We all hear constantly about the “illegals” and how the government seem to be bending over backwards to help them to become “legal” but nothing has been done to assist the legal immigrants to continue living here and contribute to the well being of the country. Did you know that E2 visa holders have many restrictions and these are just a few:
      1. Have to renew their visa’s outside the country every two to five years and prove they still have a qualifying business.
      2. Renew their driving licence every year.
      3. Their children cannot work part time in another business during school holidays.
      4. Their children when attaining the age of 21 have to leave the country, unless they can qualify themselves to stay.
      5. Cannot homestead their home.
      6. Having paid taxes for years, been good citizens still cannot obtain Citizenship or a Green Card and live here permanently.
      7. When an E2 holder wishes to retire he has to leave the country.
      8. Nearly every country in the World has an allocation of Green Card Lottery tickets. Not so for Great Britain as they were withdrawn years ago.
      9. No matter how much money you have it will not buy you the ability to retire here. There is another visa called an EB5 but that would mean investing $500,000 + in an investment over which you have little control and if it fails you still have to leave the country.
      10. Most times we have to employ visa lawyers at horrendous cost when applying and / or renewing our visa’s.

      We “modern day pilgrims” are fed up with the way we are treated and a good friend of ours, Zoe Adams www.E2VisaReform.org who, with her family arrived in Florida in September 2003 and run a pool servicing company in Lakeland, have formed a group with others to make those with influence aware of our unfair situation and in the last couple of weeks taken the time to go to Washington put our case to Senators, Representatives and other interested parties and we are hoping that something good will come out of their untiring efforts. To this end we must now send a petition to Washington and we are asking all our friends to give their support by clicking on this link http://wh.gov/vC9F and “sign” the petition.

      You know that Lena and I will be eternally grateful if you could spare a few moments to go to this petition page and give your support. Any queries or other good ideas please call me 727 743 5727.

      Keith Breading
    1. johnson ivette's Avatar
      johnson ivette -
      my question is....for those who have been told to wait outside the U.S for ten years and are in their respective country's..but have wife's and children here, will they be able to return before the ten years will this new immigration reform apply to them?
    1. itraa's Avatar
      itraa -
      please help a little feedback.my brother a us citizen had petioned for me almost 10 years while i am awiating a visa number,he suffered an untimely death of an accident can you please tell me what could be my next step.I am in my country .
    1. tahminawatson's Avatar
      tahminawatson -
      Thank you for all your comments.

      Keith: I understand your concerns and have written about it in a separate article recently, please see the link below. I met someone last year at the Entrepreneur in Residence launch, was that you? http://watsonimmigration.wordpress.c...mments-part-1/ I would be happy to sign your petition.

      Johnson: There can be several reasons for someone to wait outside the US, the most common one being 3/10 year bar. I understand the issue may have been raised and I hope it will be addressed in any reform. It is very hard to tell what reform will eventually pass but I will certainly write about it in due course.

      Itraa: I'm afraid, when the petitioner passes away, the petition also 'dies'. However, you could apply for reinstatement under humanitarian grounds as long as you are able to find another financial sponsor. It will take a long time for a decision to made but it is likely your only option for this petition. Best of luck.
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