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Should I wait for Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

the-capitol-building.jpgIf you've been following immigration news recently, you will have heard that President Obama hopes for Congress to enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) sometime within the next six months. With the excitement of the President's announcement and his efforts to get the process going quickly, many noncitizens who are currently eligible for immigration benefits are wondering what exactly they should do. Should you wait for the new law to take effect, or should you proceed with your case?

Of course, the answer depends entirely on the specifics of each individual case, but there are some realities for you to consider:

CIR may fail.

Although there is a great amount of support for CIR, there is also still very strong opposition. Efforts towards overhauling the immigration laws of this country have been made various times in recent years, and yet Congress has not been able to pass any new laws. While the current administration has made great strides and CIR feels closer than ever, there is still no guarantee that CIR will actually pass.

If CIR does pass, it may take years to implement.

While President Obama's intentions are good and we certainly hope Congress can deliver, an entire overhaul of the immigration system within six months is an extremely ambitious plan. History tells us that implementing a comprehensive change in the law, especially immigration laws, can take years.

Once CIR is implemented, it could cause backlogs for years.

If the Senate version of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform proposal becomes law, that means that up to 11 million people or more will be filing for benefits with the Department of Homeland Security. This enormous increase in applications and activity will delay processing times by many months, if not years, which means that your application will take much longer to be adjudicated than it would if you filed your application now. Therefore, if you are eligible for benefits now, you may want to consider filing now, before CIR is passed, to avoid increased processing times.

The details of CIR are still unclear.

We still do not know what the details of the final law will look like, and who exactly will benefit. Not every noncitizen will qualify for benefits under the new law, depending on each person's specific criminal and immigration history. Without those details, it is impossible to say at this point in time whether an individual will qualify or not.

Moreover, although the details are still undetermined, the current version of the Senate plan does not allow for applicants to gain residency immediately, but rather to wait in line with a temporary status until a visa becomes available. Currently, these lines are anywhere from three years to twenty years long. This means that if you are eligible to become a permanent resident within the next few years, you have access to benefits now that may be better than what CIR will have to offer.

CIR may not be an exclusive form of relief.

Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be eligible to apply for immigration benefits now, and still be eligible to apply for benefits after CIR is passed. Different forms of relief offer different benefits, and it could be that you are eligible for some benefits now, and even more benefits after CIR. For example, if you qualify for a benefit now that grants you work authorization, but not the ability to travel, it could be in your interest to file both now and after CIR passes such that you have both work and travel authorization.

CIR may be expensive.

It appears that whatever form CIR takes, it will be expensive. Applicants will likely have to pay some sort of penalty fee for unlawful status, as well as pay back-taxes. Applicants will have to consider whether financially they are able to afford both filing for benefits now and potentially filing for benefits after CIR.

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Considering these realities, if you are eligible for immigration relief now and you know you have a strong case, you probably should not wait for the new law to go into effect. Of course, it is important to truly understand the risks of going forward with your case, and what the best strategy is for you. Make sure you speak to an attorney to weigh your options.

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1 Comment

Thank you for this incredibly informative, insightful article. It really puts things in perspective.

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