obama_13The Obama administration will begin a push for immigration reform this month, the Huffington Post quoted an unnamed administration official as saying in an article on Jan. 2. The specifics of the potential bill are far from clear, however. Democrats have expressed a desire for a bill for comprehensive reform, from immigration assistance for undocumented workers to policy changes seeking to promote foreign investment in U.S. housing. Republicans have also indicated a willingness to change certain immigration laws; however, it is less clear what areas of immigration reform they are willing to look at, and “comprehensive reform” may not ultimately pass, replaced by laws targeting only certain areas.

The White House expects to work on a bill for the next several months before introducing it to Congress. A group of U.S. Senators are also attempting to form a bipartisan bill regarding immigration reform.

High-skilled workers

One area likely to receive attention is green cards for high-skilled workers. While the 112th Congress is now ended, there was a late push in the lame-duck session introduced by House Republicans that would have replaced the random lottery for green cards and instead given them to high-skilled workers. There is currently a backlog of high-skilled foreign workers seeking green cards. U.S. companies are seeking these workers because they cannot find qualified U.S. citizens to fill the positions.

While businesses support expanding the ability for companies to obtain high-skilled workers, some Democrats opposed the measure, as it would ultimately lower the total number of green cards issued to immigrants because there are not 50,000 high-skilled worker applications yearly, once the backlog is ended.

Changes in the law continue

While any comprehensive reform is at least months away, if it ever comes at all, that is not to say immigration laws are static. For example, on Jan. 2 federal authorities created a new rule that will prevent long periods of separation for certain families seeking green cards to remain in the U.S.

Currently, some undocumented immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen or who have a close relative who is a U.S. citizen must return to their home country before applying for a green card. However, this makes for situations in which families must be separated for years before reuniting in the U.S. The new rule will allow the undocumented immigrant to prove extreme hardship if separated from immediate family, potentially reducing the wait time to months rather than years.

Immigration law attorneys can help

U.S. immigration laws are shifting and complicated. Immigrants seeking green cards or temporary work visas should contact an experienced immigration law attorney to help them navigate the ever-changing landscape of immigration to the U.S.

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