Biden Administration to Introduce Immigration Legislation on Day 1

On Monday night, the Biden transition team announced that President-elect Joe Biden would introduce a significant immigration legislative package on his first day in office, Wednesday, January 20, 2021. According to reports from within the transition team, President-elect Biden’s multi-faceted plan includes the following:

  • Legal Immigration Changes: Under President-elect Biden’s plan, the availability of certain employment- and family-based visas would increase by reclaiming unused visas from past years. Doctoral graduates in the STEM fields and the spouses and children of green card holders would be exempt from country-based quotas. The plan also grants work permits for spouses and children of temporary worker visa holders. An increase of H-1B and H-2B visas is not part of the plan.
  • A Pathway to Citizenship: President-elect Biden’s plan would put millions of qualifying immigrants, individuals in the US as of Jan. 1, 2021, in a temporary status for five years. Then, if they meet criteria such as background checks and tax payment, they would be granted a green card and would be eligible to apply for citizenship after three years. Current beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs could apply for a green card immediately.
  • Refugee and Reunification Programs: President-elect Biden’s plan would reestablish a program that granted minors from Central America temporary legal residence. The Trump administration ended the program in 2017. The Biden administration would also focus on reunification for US citizens’ Central American family members so that individuals already approved for US residency can be admitted. A new admissions program deployed at processing centers outside the US would improve the process to identify individuals who would qualify for refugee status in the US. The Biden administration also plans to review the entire TPS program to see which benefits terminated by the Trump administration could be reinstated.
  • Border ManagementThe Biden plan asks the Department of Homeland Security to propose technology and infrastructure to support border security. Mr. Biden has previously vowed not to continue construction on the border wall.

President-elect Biden has elevated immigration as a major legislative priority, just behind health and economic relief and recovery. Members of the transition team have suggested that President-elect Biden will take advantage of the Executive Order powers, most notably to repeal President Trump’s travel ban for citizens of some majority-Muslim countries.

This legislative plan would be the broadest proposed immigration change since an unsuccessful effort in 2013.

Erickson Immigration Group will continue to send updates as more news is available. If you have questions about anything we’re reporting above or case-specific questions, please contact your employer or EIG attorney.