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Comprehensive US Immigration Reform Likely This Year

There has been a lot of talk about comprehensive immigration reform and now it finally looks as though talk will translate into action. With Congress back in session this week after a two week break and the 'Gang of Eight' (a bipartisan group working on comprehensive immigration reform) announcing that they aim to release their proposals any day now, there is growing consensus that comprehensive immigration reform is likely to happen in 2013.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the way in which the immigration reform debate has shaped up is that politicians on both sides of the isle are drawing ideologically nearer, agreeing not only that immigration reform is one of the top priorities, but also that rules must be liberalised. In particular, many conservatives and traditionalist religious groups are championing the unexpected cause of passing immigration reform by taking out TV and radio advertisements, engaging in grassroots efforts and lobbying politicians in support of immigration reform. Republican Senator Marco Rubio aptly explained that "It's really hard to get people to listen to you on economic growth, on tax rates, on health care, if they think you want to deport their grandmother."

As more "immigration-sceptics" change their minds, the more likely it is that others will join them. American for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist (a conservative) explains why even more Republicans are likely to join the cause of immigration reform:

"They look out and hear the guys on talk radio, and they go 'Oh my goodness, everybody out there thinks this. That's not necessarily where I was, but I guess if everybody thinks that way, I'll either be quiet or go along, or I'll listen to them so they can convince me.' They're now hearing the other side of the issue."

Efforts to shed conservatives' anti-immigrant image are not unrelated to the changing US demographics which has seen a significant increase in Latino voters, whose participation in the 2012 Presidential Election contributed to the Democrats' sweeping victory. According to recent reports, 71% of Latino voters and 73% of Asian American voters supported President Obama, while 58% of Latino voters presently see immigration reform as the number one issue for politicians to resolve. Politics and immigration law are inherently intertwined but, recently, there has been a more pronounced shift in the framework of discussions, from how politics impacts immigration decisions to the reverse situation: how the changing US voters' views on immigration are shaping the political developments.

As influential politicians, business owners and community leaders are throwing their support behind comprehensive immigration reform, what could this all mean for foreign nationals? While the concrete draft proposals are not yet available, they are expected in the very near future -- possibly in the next few days. The debate thus far suggests that the measures to be proposed may include but will not be limited to:

  • Increasing work visas and 'green card' availability for STEM graduates with advanced degrees;
  • Increasing the number of H-1B (Specialty Occupation) visas to reflect the increased demands of the American economy for skilled foreign workers;
  • Providing enhanced immigration opportunities for foreign investors to make investments in the USA;
  • Reducing the time that family members are separated from each other for family-based immigration and, in particular, the separation time for spouses and children under 21;
  • Providing immigration equality for LGBT couples so partners can sponsor their same sex spouse under the existing family immigration provisions;
  • Creating a path to US citizenship for undocumented foreign nationals already in the US.

The American Immigration Law Office is a full service US immigration law firm in London handling all aspects of US business and family immigration. Contact the firm's US immigration lawyer in London to discuss your USA visa options!