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Summary of Key Family Immigration Provisions in S. 1639

Title V of the Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1639) would fundamentally restructure the permanent immigration system by largely replacing the current family- and employment-based preference system with a merit-based point system. This title eliminates current family preference categories, severely limits future family immigration, and fails adequately to address the existing backlogs for family-based visas.

Family-Based Visa Ceiling and Backlog Reduction (Section 501):

Worldwide Ceiling: Sets a worldwide ceiling on family-based visas at 567,000 until pre-May 2005 backlogs in preference categories 1, 2B, 3, and 4 have been eliminated. Once these backlogs have been eliminated, the worldwide ceiling drops to 127,000.

  • 440,000 of the 567,000 visas are dedicated exclusively to backlog reduction.
  • After backlog elimination, the 127,000 visas will be divided between the 2A category (87,000) and the new 1 category for parents of U.S. citizens (40,000)

Backlog Reduction: Although the proposed worldwide ceiling sets aside 440,000 visas per year for reduction of pre-May 2005 backlogs in categories 1, 2B, 3, and 4, it does not eliminate backlogs in the 2A category and provides no relief for post-May 2005 family-based filings.

Elimination of Family Preference Categories (Section 503)

Intended to reduce "chain migration," Section 503 would:

  • Eliminate family preference categories 1, 2B, 3, and 4.
  • Maintain 2A category at current approximate annual ceiling of 87,000.
  • Redefine immediate relatives to exclude parents of U.S. citizens (USCs) and create a new preference category 1 for parents of U.S. citizens with an annual ceiling of 40,000.

Treatment of Parents of U.S. Citizens (Sections 503 & 506)

Exclusion from Immediate Relative Definition: Section 503 redefines immediate relatives to exclude parents of U.S. citizens (USCs).

New Preference Category: Section 503 creates a new preference category 1 for parents of USCs and creates an annual ceiling of 40,000.

Parent Visitor Visas: Section 506 creates a new special visitor visa for parents of USCs and for spouses and minor children of Y-1 visa holders. Terms and conditions of visa:

  • $1,000 bond
  • 30 days per year maximum
  • Permanent bar for individuals who overstay this visa
  • No adjustment or change of status permitted
  • Rates of overstays in excess of 7% by nationals of a country can lead to termination of program for such nationals and ultimately can lead to termination of program
  • USC sponsors whose beneficiary overstays are barred from sponsoring another beneficiary

Merit-Based Evaluation System for Immigrants (Section 502)

In place of the current family- and employment-based system, the bill would create a merit-based preference system. Merit points are assigned based on employment (up to 47 points), education (up to 28 points), English/civics (up to 15 points), and extended family (up to 10 points), for a total of 100 possible points.

Points for extended family in the U.S.: Extended family points are only available to individuals who accumulate a total of 55 points or more solely through the employment, education, and/or English/civics categories. For such individuals, 10 points can be earned for:

  • Adult (21 or over) child of USC (8 points)
  • Adult (21 or over) child of LPR (6 points)
  • Sibling of USC or LPR (4 points)
  • Visa application in any category above after May 1, 2005 (2 points)

Family Visas for Hardship Cases (Section 504)

Creates a new pool of 5,000 hardship-based immigrant visas for individuals with familial relationships that would have qualified them for sponsorship under former 1, 2B, 3, or 4. Must establish extreme hardship to the petitioner or beneficiary that cannot be alleviated with temporary visits. Petitions that are not granted terminate at end of fiscal year.

Elimination of Diversity Visa Program (Section 505)

This section eliminates the diversity visa program and repeals the NACARA provision reducing the Other Worker category from 10,000 to 5,000.

Increase in Per-Country Limits (Section 508):

Increases per-country limits on remaining family categories and on merit-based categories to 10%.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 07062165.