Part II of CIR Blog Series: Pathways to Citizenship

This is the second part of a blog series on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). The first part of the series highlighted some changes to the asylum process brought forth by the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), which has just been passed in the Senate by a vote of 68-32. This post will focus on the pathways to citizenship that the bill provides. The third part will go on to examine the border security “triggers” mandated by S.744 and its amendments, especially the Hoeven-Corker amendment that was added to the bill on Wednesday.

To maximize readability, the full text of this post is available as a .pdf document, downloadable here.


Among the proposed bill’s many provisions, the establishment of pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants has perhaps attracted the most scrutiny. Assailed by some conservatives as an “amnesty” measure, S.744 creates three parallel paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. (A chart at the end of this blog post provides a visual representation of these paths.) The first path is for agricultural workers who have satisfied certain minimum work requirements. These agricultural workers will be able to apply for a “blue card,” a new temporary legal status; after holding a blue card for 5 years, they can apply for lawful permanent residency, commonly referred to as a “green card.”

Youths who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 have access to an accelerated legalization program similar to the path previously set forth in the “DREAM Act.” If a youth entered the United States as a minor, managed to earn a high school diploma or a GED degree, and went on to complete two years of college or 4 years of military service, then he or she could be eligible to apply for permanent residency in as few as five years. After receiving permanent resident status, the applicant would be immediately eligible to apply for citizenship.

The path to citizenship will be longer and more arduous for those who are neither agricultural workers nor childhood arrivals, i.e. the majority of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. These immigrants must first apply for and be granted “Registered Provisional Immigrant,” or “RPI,” status before they can apply for a green card. RPI status is a new temporary legal status created by S.744 that allows for work authorization and paves the road for adjustment to long term permanent status.

This post will analyze the requirements for RPI status, including length of employment, income level, and the fees and penalties involved. It will also examine bars to eligibility, wait-time to citizenship, and benefits available to immigrants during the process.


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