The Biden administration and Democratic sponsors in the Senate

and House of Representatives have put forth a sweeping new

immigration reform bill, the 353-page “U.S. Citizenship Act of

2021.” The bill states its purpose as providing an earned path

to citizenship, addressing the root causes of migration,

responsibly managing the southern border, reforming the immigrant

visa system, and other goals. The bill does not emphasize


The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by

striking the term “alien” and replacing it with

“noncitizen.” The term “alien” has been in use

for centuries, but some find it demeaning. According to reports,

Tracy Renaud, who is serving as acting director for U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, recently sent a memorandum to

agency staff encouraging them to avoid use of the terms

“alien” and “illegal alien” and instead to use

“more inclusive language in the agency's outreach efforts,

internal documents and in overall communication with stakeholders,

partners and the general public,” including

“noncitizen” and “undocumented noncitizen” or

“undocumented individual.”

It is likely that the bill will not pass intact, but smaller

targeted pieces could be moved forward and supported separately.

Another avenue being suggested for implementation is via the budget

reconciliation process.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of selected highlights of the

proposed legislation. The bill would:

  • Establish an “earned path to citizenship” for

    “eligible entrants” (and their spouses and children) that

    provides for an initial period of authorized admission as a

    “lawful prospective immigrant,” valid for six years and

    extendable. Qualifying individuals would also receive a work permit

    and travel authorization. A lawful prospective immigrant could

    become eligible for permanent residence after at least five years

    of prospective status. Prospective applicants would need to have

    been in the United States before 2021.

  • Raise to 170,000 (from 140,000) the annual number of

    employment-based immigrants, and add unused employment-based green

    cards to the maximum. (Derivatives of employment-based immigrants

    will not count against numerical caps.)

  • Provide permanent residence, without numerical limits, to

    international students with PhDs in science, technology,

    engineering, and math fields from U.S. universities.

  • Provide for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status for

    noncitizens who entered the United States as children (e.g.,

    “Dreamers” under the Deferred Action for Childhood

    Arrivals program).

  • Provide permanent residence to those who have had an approved

    immigrant petition for 10 years.

  • Provide for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status for

    agricultural workers who have performed agricultural labor or

    services during the immediately preceding five-year period for at

    least 2,300 hours or 400 work days.

  • Provide for adjustment to lawful permanent resident status for

    certain nationals of countries designated for temporary protected

    status or deferred enforced departure.

  • Increase diversity green cards from 55,000 to 80,000 each year.

    (Derivatives of DV immigrants will not count against numerical


  • Eliminate employment-based per-country levels.
  • Increase immigrant visas for “other workers.”
  • Provide for the establishment of a procedure to temporarily

    limit admission of certain immigrants in geographic areas or labor

    market sectors that are experiencing high levels of


  • Establish a pilot program for up to five years to admit

    annually up to 10,000 “admissible immigrants whose employment

    is essential to the economic development strategies of the cities

    or counties in which they will live or work.”

  • Consider prioritizing nonimmigrant visas (including H-1B) based

    on the wages offered by employers.

  • Allow work authorization for H-4 nonimmigrant spouses and

    children of H-1B nonimmigrants.

  • Provide for expediting legitimate trade and travel at ports of


  • Authorize employment for asylum applicants who are not detained

    and whose applications have not been determined to be


  • Establish an employment authorization commission to make

    recommendations on policies to verify the eligibility of

    noncitizens for employment in the United States.

  • Conduct a study on factors affecting employment opportunities

    for immigrants and refugees with professional credentials obtained

    in foreign countries.

The bill also includes provisions to address “migration

needs by strengthening regional humanitarian responses for refugees

and asylum seekers in the Western Hemisphere and [strengthen]

repatriation initiatives, promote “immigrant and refugee

integration,” address immigration court backlogs, and expand

programs to address the “root causes of migration” and

“responsibly [manage] the southern border.”


  • Text of House bill,

  • Text of Senate bill,

    · Siskind Summary,

  • “Joe Biden's Administration Orders Immigration

    Officials to Remove 'Alien' and 'Illegal Alien'

    From Official Communications and Use 'Noncitizen' Instead

    to Avoid 'Dehumanizing Language,' ” Daily Mail, Feb.

    16, 2021,

  • ” 'Aliens' No More: Biden Administration Directs

    Immigration Officials To Use 'Inclusive Language,' ”

    Forbes, Feb. 16, 2021,

  • “New Bill Has Many Good But Two Bad Measures for

    Employment Immigrants,” Forbes, Feb. 19, 2021,

  • “Democrats Introduce an Immigration Overhaul Bill.

    Here's What Would Change,” NBC News, Feb. 18, 2021,

  • “Biden's Immigration Bill Lands on the Hill Facing

    Bleak Odds,” Politico, Feb. 18, 2021,

  • “Democratic Lawmakers Unveil Biden-Backed Immigration

    Overhaul Bill,” CBS News, Feb. 18, 2021,

  • “House Announces Sweeping Immigration Bill,” CNN,

    Feb. 18, 2021,

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top