While so much attention has been given to the provision allowing for the legalization of an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the newly introduced Senate Bill known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (Bseoima) – little notice has been given to its other provisions which allow for the immediate entry of family members of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who have been waiting for years for immigrant visas to be available to them. It also increases the quota for employment based petitions for professionals from the present level of 15% of the total of immigrants entering the US annually to 45%. The combined numbers of family member immigrants and more immigrant professionals from the Philippines will amount to a new wave of thousands of Filipinos coming to the US should this Bill become law which is likely – given the fact that there is now bi-partisan support for a comprehensive immigration reform law.
For sure, the legalization provision of Bseoima will benefit thousands of out of status Filipinos who either overstayed or worked illegally. They entered the US on tourist, business, student, working, investors, religious, entertainer, crewman, transit, trainee or some other visa. Some even entered the US without any visas but simply crossed the border from Mexico or Canada.
The Senate Bill is 844 pages long and in some parts are very difficult to understand for the layman and even for lawyers who do not understand immigration law. But let me simplify some of the most important provisions that are most relevant to Filipinos (in question and answer format). But a little Caveat is in order: Bseoma is not yet law. The House of Representatives will have their own version. Discussions will be ongoing within the Senate and within the House. The two bodies will then have their final versions out of which a final joint agreed upon Bill hopefully will result which President Obama can sign into law (if acceptable to him).
Q. Who are qualified to file for legalization?
A. Generally: Those who were present in the US as of December 30, 2011 and physically present at the time of filing. He (or she) must be a person of good moral character and not have committed serious crimes and not be a public charge (on welfare). His spouse and minor children will also qualify as dependents even if they do not meet these conditions.
Q. What status will a qualified applicant have?
A. He will have a status referred to as “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI). With this status, he can stay, work and travel in and out of the US. After ten years, the RPI may apply for Lawful Permanent Resident Status and after three years as an LPR be able to file for US citizenship. For those who entered the US before the age of 16 and graduated from High School and are persons of good moral character and not on welfare – they can immediately apply for naturalization after only 5 years of being RPIs. For those who worked as agricultural workers, special provisions also allow them to file for LPR status in less time than a regular RPI.
Q. Will the immigrant visa petitions of LPRs for their spouses and minor children be speeded up?
A. Yes, because these petitions will be treated as Immediate Relative Petitions of US citizens for which visas will be immediately and always available.
Q. How about the petitions of LPRs and US citizens for their adult single children?
A. They will be given “V Visas” which will enable them to immediately come to the US, be given work permits and wait for their immigrant visas here. The same thing is true with married adult children of US citizens who are below 31 years old be eliminated.
Q. How about the siblings of US citizens and married children who are over 31 – who already have pending immigrant visa petitions.?
A. They will be given visas allowing them to visit for 60 days but without work permits. Also, when this law is enacted, new petitions by US citizens for siblings or married children over 21 will no longer be allowed.
The Senate Bill also imposes penalties on non-lawyers who provides immigration legal services in order to protect immigrants from exploitation, fraud and incompetence. Some of these individuals operate both in the US and also in the Philippines.
There are other important provisions which I will address in the future.
Note: Atty. Ted Laguatan is one of only 29 US lawyers officially certified by the California State Bar as Expert-Specialists in Immigration Law continuously for almost 25 years now. He also does human rights law and strongly supports and advocates recognition and respect for the human rights of immigrants – whether undocumented or not. For communications: Tel 650-991-1154 Fax 650 579-7235 email [email protected]
(San Francisco Bay Area address) 455 Hickey Blvd. Ste. 516, Daly City, Ca 94015