It’s only been about a week since President Biden was sworn into office, but he has already accomplished a lot, and has promised more. He has already ended discriminatory visa bans, including the Muslim ban and stopped the building of a border wall. He has also issued a memorandum that preserves and fortifies DACA. The government is also reviewing their deportation enforcement policies in the next 100 days. What is to come of all these changes is still unknown, including President Biden’s promise to introduce a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals.
President Biden’s promise to provide a pathway to citizenship is not going to come without opposition. He promises that current and future undocumented individuals can remain in the U.S. as long as they do not have a serious criminal conviction. He also indicated that he would repeal some long-standing laws, such as the unlawful presence bars. Currently, the law states that anyone who has lived in the U.S. without lawful status for an aggregate of one year or more, and subsequently leave the U.S., will face a 10 year bar. If one is in the U.S. for more than six months, but less than a year, the bar is 3 years. In other words, one cannot immigrate for 3 or 10 years, depending on the length of time in the U.S. without lawful status. This harsh consequence could disappear.
The harshest consequence of the 3 or 10 year bar is for individuals that need to process their paperwork at a U.S. Consulate in their home country. For example, let’s say I had come to the U.S. without a visa, and stayed for 5 years after the time that I was allowed. Then, I marry a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, I only qualify to apply for a visa abroad, and when I leave the U.S. to process my visa, I will have a 10 year bar! Of course there are waivers for this, and other ways around this, but in this simple example, I would not be able to return to the U.S. for 10 years.
In any case, President Biden seems to be eyeing some changes in immigration law that would make immigrating to the U.S. a more equitable process. Although nothing has been introduced yet, be on the lookout for some changes soon.