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House passes new DREAM Act

On June 5, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the most recent version of the DREAM Act, which would offer millions of young undocumented individuals in California and elsewhere a pathway to United States citizenship. The bill will now head to the Republican-led Senate, where it is expected to languish.

The DREAM and Promise Act of 2019 was approved by a vote of 237 to 187 with 230 Democrats voting in favor of the measure. Seven Republicans also crossed the aisle to support the proposal. If it was signed into law, the bill would let certain undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children obtain permanent US residency. The bill would also cover young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, those with Temporary Protected Status and Liberian immigrants shielded by the Deferred Enforced Departure program. To qualify for the DREAM Act program, immigrants must have been under 18 years of age when they entered the US, lived in the country for the past four years and earned a high school diploma or the equivalent. They must also have a clean criminal record and pass a background check.

Visas: Immigrant or non-immigrant? Which do you need?

Colorado is home to many people who traveled to the United States from other countries of origin. You may have plans of your own to apply for a visa that brings you one step closer to legally entering the U.S., either on a temporary or permanent basis. Determining which type of visa you need and learning more about the legal processes involved can help you avoid complications that may impede you from achieving your goals.

There are eligibility requirements you must first fulfill before applying for a visa. It's critical that you understand the differences between the types of visas available, so that you know which one best fits your particular needs and ultimate immigration travel goals. You'll also want to remember that obtaining a visa doesn't guarantee entry to the United States. It simply means immigration officials have deemed you eligible. If a legal status problem arises, you'll want to know where to turn for guidance and support.

Making sure you have the immigration documents you need

Arriving in Colorado as an immigrant is typically not without its challenges. Depending on whether you traveled to the United States alone or with a spouse or other family members, as well as what your purpose for being here happens to be, you may need to acquire several or many documents to get your legal status in order.

Some immigrants arrive at U.S. borders in a more sudden manner, such as those who suddenly and unexpectedly fled their countries of origin because of violence, poverty or persecution. It's logical to assume that the more organized your documents are, the easier it might be to navigate the U.S. immigration system.

USCIS to limit protections for unaccompanied migrant children

The steps taken by President Donald Trump to stem the flow of migrants crossing into California and other border states from countries in Central America has grown increasingly aggressive in recent weeks. On May 30 the President said that he would begin imposing tariffs on goods imported from Mexico on June 10 if steps were not taken to stop migrant caravans before they reach the United States, and on May 30 immigration authorities announced plans to limit special protections afforded to unaccompanied migrant children.

Under U.S. law, migrant children who are not accompanied by an adult can make their asylum claims before a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officer rather than an immigration judge. If their claims are denied, they are given a second chance for asylum in an immigration court. A USCIS spokesperson said that these protections would no longer be offered to unaccompanied minors who turn 18 while in federal custody or are reunited with family members or guardians.

Trump immigration plan raises concerns

People in Colorado with family members waiting for green cards or who are themselves waiting for employment-based permanent residency may be troubled by reports of immigration legislation backed by President Donald Trump. The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to introduce a bill into Congress that will reflect Trump's expressed goals of ending the family-based and employment-based routes to permanent residence in favor of replacing them with a points-based system. In particular, reports indicate that the existing backlog of 4 million applications for green cards will be wiped out.

Applicants would need to file their applications again under a newly adopted points-based system. While the White House indicated that there would be some additional points granted for people kicked off of the application backlog, a wide-open application system might leave them on the outs in a future system. There is no way to know if any particular individual may be able to obtain a green card under the new system.

Immigration facts: Why people come to the United States

As one of many immigrants in Colorado, you may have entered the United States after weeks or months of preparation, or you may have arrived here under more urgent circumstances. The reasons you had for emigrating from another country of origin may have significant impact on your overall immigration experience.

When you decided to journey to the U.S., there may have been issues that prompted your desire to leave your original place of residence in another country. You may also have chosen the United States as your ultimate destination for numerous reasons. The immigration process can be complex and highly stressful, especially if you run into legal problems along the way.

What to know about immigration to the United States

There are about 34 million people who live in Colorado and throughout the United States as legal immigrants. Some have temporary visas that allow them to work or study in the country while others have permanent legal status. Individuals may enter the country if they have family members who are willing to sponsor them. However, proposed changes to the immigration system would put a greater emphasis on the characteristics of the person looking to enter the country.

For instance, those who speak English or have specialized skills could be more likely to obtain legal entry into the United States. Furthermore, those who are seen as likely to use government aid or other assistance programs could have less of a chance of being allowed into America. Over the past several years, there have been fewer refugees admitted into the country.

Show up at your marriage interview well-prepared

You have hopes and dreams about someday becoming a U.S. citizen. However, you understand it's a process, and when you married your spouse, you were happy that you could apply for a marriage-based visa and come to Colorado. Now, you must appear at a marriage interview and you're feeling nervous. That's understandable since your interviewers can greatly influence your ability (or inability) to stay in the United States.

Any type of immigration interview can be highly stressful. However, a marriage interview is especially so because it seems so personal. The better prepared you are, the less stressful it might be. It pays to speak with someone who has already gone through a similar experience, and also to know where to seek outside support, as needed.

H1-B applications up, approval rates down

It's getting harder for people from other nations to secure employment in California and the rest of the country due to factors like an improving economy and Presidential executive orders. More than 200,000 individuals applied for H1-B skilled worker visas in 2019; only 85,000 such visas will be issued. The H1-B lottery was used to select 42% of applicants, but those applicants have more to do before their visas are approved.

After its selection in the lottery, an H1-B application is placed for formal review by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. USCIS has the power to approve or deny an application, or it can ask for further materials from the applicant. This review process was rarely a problem for applicants as recently as a few years ago. Following an executive order in April 2017, however, H1-B applications are under additional scrutiny.

An additional 30,000 foreign workers to be granted H-2B visas

Employers in California and around the country are likely pleased to see the economy booming. However, finding workers to fill low-skilled jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. President Trump has repeatedly said that even legal immigration is a threat to American jobs, but pleas from the business sector and the lowest unemployment level in decades seems to have prompted him to soften his position on the issue. According to media reports, Trump is planning to allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue an additional 30,000 H-2B visas to foreign seasonal workers.

Employers will be able submit H-2B visa applications after the rule change is published in the Federal Register. Many of the foreign workers who will be granted these visas will be employed in seasonal industries like fishing, tourism and hospitality that have been lobbying Congress for years to increase the 66,000 annual H-2B visa cap. The Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security answered these calls in 2017 and 2018 by allowing an additional 15,000 visas to be issued to employers who could show that they would suffer irreparable harm if they were not able to hire more workers.

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