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U.S. SENATE PASSES IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL: WHO ARE ELIGIBLE TO APPLY FOR “PROVISIONAL GREEN CARDS” AND WHAT SHOULD IMMIGRANTS PREPARE TO DO?

The U.S. Senate passes their version of the immigration reform bill that would include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country,  increase the number of visas available for those who have approved petitions to reduced the backlog from countries like the Philippines, Mexico, China and India as reported in the New York Times  and Washington Post on June 26, 2013.
Some Democratic and Republican members of Congress anticipate that the current proposal will be enacted into law by September of this year 2013.
The Senate’s immigration bill include fines, the payment of back taxes, criminal background checks and other hurdles for immigrants who would apply to legalize their status. The Senate version would only allow  those who are here illegally to apply for permanent green cards  10 (ten) years after the bill is enacted into law.  For the young “dreamers” (those who were brought here as children), they would be able to apply for “green cards” two (2) years after the bill becomes law.
Under the Senate bill, those “illegals” or “out of status” who would apply for ”permanent green cards” would be granted “provisional or temporary status,” known as Registered Provisional Immigrants or RPI, issued working permits and would be allowed to travel outside the United States.  Under the Senate version, only those immigrants who are “illegals” or “out of status”  who are here on or before December 31, 2011 can apply.  If those immigrants are eligible, the same immigrants can be granted “provisional status” for 10 years and can apply for citizenship three (3) years after that time.
The Senate bill also allows those in the country who have been working legally for 10 years (such as those in temporary H1B/H2B status) can be granted green cards or legal permanent residency if those immigrants apply.
More importantly, the Senate bill increases the family and employment visa caps to reduce the back log of countries like the Philippines, India, China and Mexico whose family members have been waiting in some cases for more than 15 years. The Senate version, however plans to eliminate the category where a US citizen can petition for a sibling brother or sister.
The Senate bill would also allow  highly skilled immigrants and those who graduated from U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to stay and apply for “green cards.”  The plan would also impose a nationwide verification of legal status for all newly hired workers and would also create some form of guest-worker program to bring in low-wage immigrants in the future.
WHAT SHOULD IMMIGRANTS PREPARE TO DO? Below are few pointers provided by the experts from the National Immigration Forum and the ILRC Network:

1. HAVE A RELATIVE OR EMPLOYER FILE A PETITION IF YOU QUALIFY BECAUSE CONGRESS WILL ALLOCATE VISAS TO THOSE ALREADY IN LINE. QUALIFYING RELATIVES INCLUDE BROTHER OR SISTER, MOTHER OR FATHER AND SON OR DAUGHTER.
2. KEEP RECORDS OF YOUR PRESENCE IN THE U.S. such as  Checking or Savings Account, Money Remittances (Western Union), Money Order Receipts, Cell Phone or Cable Bills, Credit Card Bills, Utility Bills such as Electric or Gas, Medical Records (doctor’s/hospital bills/children immunization records), Lease, School Records (Transcript of Records), Your Children’s School Records (Report Cards), State Issued driver license or  State ID even if expired or Passports issued by your Country’s Embassy or Consulate in the United States
3. DO NOT LOSE YOUR I-94 ARRIVAL DOCUMENTS
4. GET A PASSPORT FROM YOUR CONSULATE OR EMBASSY AND OBTAIN A CERTIFIED COPY OF YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES (If Married)
5. AVOID USING PHONY NAMES ON OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS

6. LEARN ENGLISH. Attend English as Second Language (ESL) Class.

7. PAY TAXES. YOU CAN OBTAIN AN INCOME TAX IDENTIFICATION ITIN) NUMBER IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER.

8. IF YOU WERE ARRESTED, GET AN ARREST DISPOSITION FROM THE CLERK’S OFFICE OF THE COUNTY WHERE YOU WERE ARRESTED

9. BEWARE OF IMMIGRATION SCAMS

10. SAVE FOR FEES AND PENALTIES (Fees and Penalties could be up to $5,000 or more)

Attorney SID GARBANZOS is a graduate of the City University of New York School of Law and is admitted to practice in New York and Washington, D.C. Practice areas include: Civil Litigation, Landlord-Tenant, RN & Medical Profession License Defense and Immigration. Please note that this article is written for a gratuitous purpose only and no attorney-client relationship is created in this publication. This article is not, nor intended to be legal advice. The reader should consult with a reputable lawyer based on his or her individual circumstances. Please call Garbanzos Law Firm at (718)725-7324 if you have any questions about this article.

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