The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 was introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1177) and in the Senate in February 2021.

Much has been written about how the bill would create a pathway to U.S. citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS holders, H-2A farmworkers and 11 million undocumented persons.

The bill also contains provisions which would make it easier and faster to get a green card through employment and family members. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is 353 pages long. It is doubtful whether the entire bill will be signed into law. More likely, some of the provisions listed below will become law by being added to other legislation.

On this page, we highlight some of the significant changes that the bill would make to improve and expand legal immigration to the United States.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Impact on Legal Immigration is divided into the following subtopics:
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U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 – Employment-Based Immigration

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would expand the number of persons who can get employment-based green cards, get rid of ridiculous per-country quotas and prevent children from aging-out while waiting for their priority dates to become current.

EB Green Cards
  • The number of green cards available in the EB categories would be increased from 140,000 to 170,000 annually. The additional 30,000 green cards would be added to the EB-3 unskilled worker category.
  • Anyone with an approved visa petition who has been waiting in line for over 10 years for their priority date to become current would no longer be subject to numerical limits. They would be permitted to apply for a green card immediately. This would become effective 60 days after the bill is signed into law.
  • Persons with Ph.D. degrees from U.S. universities in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) would be exempt from numerical limits.
  • Numbers of unused employment-based green cards from 1992 to 2020 would be “recaptured”. It is estimated that this number exceeds 200,000.
  • Spouses and children would no longer be counted against numerical green card limits.
  • The 7% per-country quota would be eliminated starting on October 1, 2021.
  • DHS would be given the authority to establish a 5-year pilot program to allow county or municipal executives to petition for up to 10,000 immigrant visas annually to support the region’s economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify that there are available jobs and that there are no U.S. workers to fill them.
  • DHS and DOL would be permitted to issue regulations to temporarily halt the issuance of EB2 and EB3 green cards in areas of high unemployment.

Temporary Visas

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would make it easier for foreign students to get green cards without having to go through the H-1B visa lottery and would ease the transition for those on temporary working visas to get green cards.
  • DHS and DOL would be given the authority issue a regulation to prioritize the order in which H1B visa applicants are selected based on the wages offered by employers.
  • Work authorization (EADs) would be granted to H-4 spouses and children.
  • F-1 student visas would be reclassified as “dual intent” visas.
  • F-1 students with OPT who are in the green card process would be able to renew their EADs in one-year increments if they have a pending PERM application which was applied for before one year of the expiration of their F-1 status, or they have pending or approved I-140. They will no longer need to obtain H-1B status.
  • It would permit the extension of F-1, H-1B, L-1, and O-1 status in one-year increments if the person has a PERM application which has been pending for more than one year or has a pending or approved I-140 visa petition.
  • U visas would be available to those who have been victims of or are material witnesses to bona fide workplace abuse claims and are helping law enforcement.
  • The annual cap on U visas would be raised from 10,000 to 30,000.
  • It would protect immigrants who report unfair labor practices.
  • The V visa would be expanded to enable persons with approved I-130s to come to the U.S. with their family members while they wait for their priority dates to become current. They will be allowed to work in the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 – Family-Based Immigration

Family members of U.S. citizens and green card holders would no longer be separated from their relatives in the U.S. having to wait abroad for years for their priority dates to become current. The number of family-based green cards would be significantly increased and per-country quotas would be expanded.
  • Beneficiaries of approved family-based visa petitions (I-130s) would be allowed to join their family members and work in the U.S. in V visa status while they wait for their priority dates to become current.
  • Spouses and children would no longer be counted against numerical green card limits.
  • Numbers of unused family-based green cards from 1992 to 2020 would be “recaptured”.
  • The numerical cap on family-based green cards would be raised dramatically.
  • Spouses and minor, unmarried children of green card holders would be treated as “immediate relatives” and not be subjected to numerical limitations.
  • Anyone with an approved visa petition who has been waiting in line for over 10 years for their priority date to become current would no longer be subject to numerical limits. They would be permitted to apply for a green card immediately. This would become effective 60 days after the bill is signed into law.
  • Family-based per-country quotas would be raised from 7% to 20% starting on October 1, 2021.
  • It would permit “permanent partners” to sponsor and receive immigration benefits including adult couples who are unable to marry in their countries.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 – Citizenship
  • The residency requirement for green card holders applying for naturalization would be reduced from 5 to 3 years.
  • Would waive the English and civics/history requirements for persons who have completed grades 9 through 12 and graduated with a high school diploma in the U.S.
  • A person who is 65 years of age or older who has been a green card holder for at least 5 years would be exempt from the English and the civics/history requirement for naturalization.
  • A person who is 60 years of age or older who has been a green card holder for at least 10 years would be exempt from the English language requirement for naturalization.
  • USCIS may waive, on a case-by-case basis, the civics/history test for people over 60 years of age who have been green card holders for at least 10 years.
  • A false claim to U.S. citizenship would no longer be a ground of inadmissibility or removal if it was made before the person turned 21.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 – Child Status Protection Act
  • H-4 children would be protected from “aging-out” by freezing their ages on the date that the PERM application was filed with DOL or, if no PERM application was required, on the date that the visa petition was filed with USCIS.
  • The age of a K-2 child would be frozen on the date that a fiancee petition (I-129F) is filed.
  • If a son or daughter ages out while waiting for their parent’s EB or FB priority date to become current, and the parent sponsors the son or daughter for a green card, they would be able to retain the priority date of the original EB or FB petition.
  • The beneficiary of a visa petition or PERM application which was “approvable when filed” would be able to retain the priority date of the original petition regardless of whether the new petition is in another category or whether the new petition is employment or family based.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 – Other Provisions
  • The 1-year deadline for applying for asylum in the U.S. would be abolished.
  • The 3 and the 10-year unlawful presence bars would be eliminated.
  • The number of green cards available to winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery would be increased from 55,000 to 80,000 annually.