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New Immigration Law

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President Barack Obama’s immigration plan has been heavily discussed in all political circles this year, and while it certainly has its supporters and detractors, some people are still unsure how it will affect them. Among this group is certainly some portion of the 11-million estimated illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.

Path to Citizenship

During the first month of 2013, Barack Obama called for the United States Congress to put the nearly 11-million illegal immigrants on a clear path to citizenship – especially those adults who were brought to the country by their parents when they were only children. This plan is partly designed to clear an enormous backlog of deferred deportation waivers and visa applications waiting to be processed.

However, this path to citizenship can only be devised according to President Obama after strengthened border controls are put into place, and penalties for employers hiring undocumented workers are raised and enforced.

Who Would Be Eligible for this Path to Citizenship?

Though discussions are still ongoing, the majority of the “path to citizenship” legislation appears to be aimed at young adults under the age of 30 who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. Still, there is some indication that illegal immigrants over the age of 30 may be allowed to stay in the United States if they pay certain fines and are considered upstanding citizens of the country.

For adults over the age of 30, something the Obama administration refers to as a “lawful prospective immigrant” visa may be a possibility in the near future. If the bill passes, immigrants seeking the visa would be required to submit to a background check, submit biometric information and pay all of the fees associated with obtaining a legal visa.

Under the “lawful prospective immigrant” visa, individuals who were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 more days in jail would not be eligible. Individuals who committed crimes in their native country that would make them ineligible for a standard visa would also be denied a “lawful prospective immigrant” visa.

Suspended Deportation

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At the end of 2012, President Barack Obama issued a directive to suspend deportation of young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents before they were consenting adults. This suspended deportation directive is directly related to the DREAM Act, which is still under consideration.

Visa Wait Time for Immigrants with U.S. Spouses

One of the least talked about facets of President Obama’s plan is a reduced wait time for immigrants with U.S. spouses to obtain a valid visa. As of 2013, some people have been required to wait what seems like an incredibly long time for their visa – more than one year in some cases.

Some immigrants with U.S. spouses were also punished for having lived in the United States illegally, which extended valid visa wait times to considerably more than one year. Under the Obama administration, changes in this policy would allow immigrants currently living in the United States with a naturalized spouse to return to their native country and apply for a waiver, which would allow them to reside legally in the United States while waiting on their visa.

The Obama administration has said that this process will take immigrants weeks instead of years.

What’s Ahead?

Immigration policy and reform is going to be a major topic of debate in 2013. It does appear that many illegal immigrants living in the United States will be given an opportunity to obtain a visa and green card, however.

According to the Obama administration, the answer is not deportation – it’s allowing immigrants who call the United States home, in a lawful manner, to become part of the culture, while tightening border security and improving the intensely complicated immigration process.

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