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The Senate’s Proposed Path to Citizenship

Senate_in_session.jpgThe Senate’s Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) lays out a 13-year path towards citizenship for some of the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. Only those who came to the U.S. before December 31, 2011 and do not have any felony convictions or three or more misdemeanor convictions will qualify.

Qualifying undocumented immigrants must first apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant status. Qualified immigrants will be granted this status for a 10-year period and then move into Lawful Permanent Resident status for an additional 3 years. When the 13-year period is over, those immigrants will be eligible for citizenship. In addition to application fees, the process also requires four background and criminal checks and penalties of at least $2,000. Applicants must also be able to prove that they have not been unemployed for more than 60 days. Applicants who cannot do so must show that they meet or exceed the federal poverty line in order to be become lawful permanent residents.

The bill lays out a less challenging path towards citizenship for DREAMers and immigrants who work in the agriculture sector of the economy. DREAMers will be required to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant status, but they will be able to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status after 5 years rather then 10 years. They will also be eligible to naturalize and become citizens immediately after attaining that status. Agricultural workers who apply and obtain a “blue card” will be allowed to continue working for up to 8 years. They will also be able to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status after 5 years, but they must wait an additional 5 years before being eligible for citizenship.