President Biden’s Actions on Immigration Relief

President Biden has announced several actions on immigration relief to address the challenges faced by mixed-status families and to streamline the visa process for U.S. college graduates, including Dreamers. These initiatives are part of a broader effort to reform the U.S. immigration system, focusing on family unity and enhancing access to work visas for highly skilled graduates.

Keeping American Families Together

Under existing law, noncitizens married to a U.S. citizen can apply for lawful permanent residence based on their marriage. However, many noncitizens must first leave the United States to apply for their green card through consular processing. Under the current immigration rules, noncitizen spouses of U.S. citizens who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for over a year face a 10-year bar on re-entry if they leave the country to apply for their green card.

President Biden’s new process allows noncitizen spouses and children of U.S. citizens who have resided in the U.S. for 10 or more years as of June 17, 2024, to apply for lawful permanent residence without leaving the U.S., thus avoiding the 10-year bar altogether. By enabling these individuals to adjust their status while remaining in the country, the administration ensures that families can stay together without the risk of long-term separation and significant hardship. This approach provides a more humane and practical solution to keeping families united and supporting their continued stability and contributions to the community and economy.

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) recently provided a summary of their eligibility and process rules.

Easing the Visa Process for U.S. College Graduates, Including Dreamers

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”)  provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization, but it does not offer a path to permanent residency or citizenship. DACA recipients without a pathway to an H-1B visa or other permanent status face ongoing uncertainty about their future in the United States.

As a result, highly educated DACA recipients may find themselves unable to work in their trained professions due to visa restrictions. Many professions require state or federal licensing, which often necessitates legal work authorization beyond what DACA provides. DACA recipients without access to H-1B visas may be unable to obtain the necessary licenses to practice in their fields, further limiting their employment opportunities.

The administration intends to streamline the visa process for international U.S. College Graduates, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers who have earned a degree from a U.S. institution and have a job offer in a related field. This process will prioritize visa applications for graduates with job offers in high-skilled fields, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and uncertainties. Facilitating the employment of Dreamers and international graduates allows them to fully utilize their education and skills in the U.S. workforce, contributing to economic growth and innovation.

The Department of State recently provided a summary of their efforts as part of the initiative for “Easing the Nonimmigrant Visa Process for U.S. College Graduates”.

As these policies take effect, there will likely be additional clarifications and challenges regarding their implementation. We will provide updates as they become available.