The recently introduced Senate immigration bill would allow qualifying agriculture workers to get permanent status faster and likely cheaper than those using the general "registered provisional immigrant" status provisions. It is important to remember, however, that this analysis is based on the original version of the bill, which can be amended and is not yet law. Therefore, the information in this summary is subject to change as this process goes forward.
There are also separate provisions in the new bill for temporary agricultural workers. Those will be discussed in a later blog post.
The "blue card"
Foreign nationals who worked at least 100 days or 575 hours between December 31, 2010 and December 31, 2012 would be able to apply for a "blue card", unless they are subject to certain bars, mainly for criminal convictions and immigration violations. Many of these bars, however, can also be waived.
Like registered provisional immigrants, those in "blue card" status would be permitted to remain in the United States, and would also be able to legally work and re-enter the country if they make a short trip abroad. Additionally, those seeking "blue card" status would be able to include spouses and children in their applications.
One key difference from registered provisional immigrant status, however, is that it should be less expensive to apply. In addition to filing fees, applicants for a blue card must pay a $100 penalty, while those applying for registered provisional immigrant status pay a $1000 penalty. Additionally registered provisional immigrant status requires satisfaction of any outstanding Federal tax burden beforehand. In contrast, blue card status does not require payment of outstanding taxes until applying for permanent residence.
From "blue card" to green card
Perhaps the largest difference between the blue card and registered provisional immigrant status is that blue cardholders would be eligible for lawful permanent residency (or a "green card") much sooner. After five years from the enactment of the new law, blue cardholders, including spouses and children, would be eligible to file for residency. Registered provisional immigrants, however, would need to wait many years before applying for residency- likely at least ten- and only after border security goals are met and the visa backlog is cleared.
The residency application for blue cardholders would likely be cheaper than for registered provisional immigrants as well. In addition to filing fees, the residency application would have a $400 penalty, compared to $1000 for registered provisional immigrants.
In order to become permanent residents, blue cardholders will have to demonstrate they completed a certain number of days of agricultural work since the enactment of the new law. Notably, however, blue cardholders will not have to work for any specific employer. Also, if they do not complete the agricultural work requirement, they can convert to the general provisional status. Both of these features reduce the likelihood blue cardholders will be exploited by employers.
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