The immigration reform bill has been a popular topic of conversation over the last year. The bill was first introduced to the Senate in April of 2013. The Senate subsequently passed the bill, but it failed to have the same success in the House.
It is likely that if the House does pass the immigration reform bill, it will contain amendments and will therefore be a different version. In the event that the Senate and the House pass different versions of the same bill, the two will need to be reconciled before becoming law.
At this point, the immigration reform bill is known as S. 744 and is made up of a number of different policies and regulations. Today's piece will discuss sections 2211 and 2212. These two sections allow for an accelerated path to residency for agricultural workers through the issuance of a “blue card.”
S. 744 includes a special program focused on agricultural workers. The program is based on the AgJOBS bill. This bipartisan legislation was created after years of negotiations involving agricultural workers, growers, and Members of Congress. The AgJOBS Act is short for the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act and has been used in the past to help draft immigration reform.
The Act has proposed a promising program which alters the current H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker policy. Often times, farmers complain that the present procedure is too lengthy and complicated. Many agricultural employers have determined that it is easier to bypass the visa process altogether.
S. 744 includes a program that permits undocumented agricultural workers to receive a special type of immigrant status, referred to as a “blue card” status. In order for the immigrant to qualify, he or she must have performed a minimum of 575 hours or 100 work days of agricultural employment within a two-year period ending December 31, 2012. Furthermore, the applicant must pay fines and pass background checks.
In addition, the applicant must meet the same criteria related to criminal and admissibility requirements for those applying for RPI (Registered Provision Immigrant) status. Once obtaining blue card status, it is valid for a maximum of eight years after regulations are published. Similar to RPI status, those with blue card status are not eligible to receive federal means-tested public benefits.
Blue card holders are eligible to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status five years after the enactment of the bill if they have continued to work in agriculture, paid taxes, and pay a fine. Once obtaining permanent residency, they may apply for citizenship after five years.
These sections of the proposed immigration reform bill are very important to the welfare of immigrants as well as the nation's economy. Farmers have seen shortages in labor over the years and it is imperative that farmers receive some form of relief in order to sustain their livelihood.
The professionals at The Law Offices of Matthew H. Green have many years of experience. We have the skills and background necessary to help you through your criminal and immigration matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.