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Biden’s Sweeping Immigration Agenda: Pathway to Citizenship and Shorter Green Card Wait Times

Jan 20, 2021

Biden speaking during the inauguration.

President Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping immigration plan shortly after taking office Wednesday that includes a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country and eliminating lengthy green card wait times.

Under the new plan, those living in the United States as of Jan. 1 could apply for temporary protected status immediately followed by a green card after five years if they meet certain requirements such as paying taxes and passing a background check. They would be allowed to apply for citizenship three years later.

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The nation’s Dreamers — those who entered the country unlawfully as children — as well as those in the country under the temporary protected status program (TPS) and some agricultural workers could apply for a green card immediately.

Immigration advocates praised Biden’s immigration agenda for its ambition and inclusivity.

“After four years of relentless attacks on immigrants from all walks of life, Joe Biden is doing more than turning the page—starting on day one, he’s sending a clear signal that our country will become a more welcoming home for aspiring new Americans than ever before,” said Doug Rand, immigration policy expert and Boundless co-founder

The bill also proposed a number of reforms to the family-based immigration system, including doing away with lengthy green card wait times, increasing the number of per-country visa caps, and allowing would-be immigrants to join family in the United States while they wait for a green card to become available.

In the employment visa category, spouses and children of temporary work visa holders, such as the H-1B visa, will automatically be granted work permits of their own. Doctoral students in the STEM field will also be exempt from the annual green card cap, making it easier for them to remain in the United States after their studies.

Biden also planned to sign a number of executive actions on his first day in office, quickly undoing some of former President Trump’s most controversial policies. These included revoking orders to exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census and rolling back the travel ban on immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries. The ban blocked more than 5% of immigrants to the United States, barring them from applying for green cards.

“We believe it’s the smarter and more humane way of approaching immigration,” said Vice President Kamala Harris about the new agenda.

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