Since taking office on Jan. 20, the Biden administration has sought to undo immigration restrictions put in place by the Trump White House. The changes include increasing refugee admissions, extending protections for undocumented individuals in the U.S. and removing the “public charge” rule that denied public benefits to immigrants.
President Biden has also removed restrictions put in place early in the coronavirus pandemic, severely curtailing the number of visas issued to immigrants. His most ambitious legislation to date would give 10.5 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, update family-based immigration, revise employment-based visa rules and increase diversity visas.
Key programs and potential changes under Biden
While it’s still early in the new administration, here are some of the changes being offered to four key immigration areas:
- Family-based immigration: Biden would expand access, which is the most common way people receive green cards. However, currently, access is limited because no single country can account for more than 7% of green cards issued annually.
- Employment-based green cards: Biden wants to boost the number of these visas, which are capped now at 140,000. The new administration would offer unused visas to spouses and children of current visa-holders and do away with the per-country cap. These measures could eliminate the current backlog of applicants.
- H-1B visas: High-skilled foreign workers accounted for 22% of all temporary employment visas in 2019. However, denial rates increased as the Trump administration sought to restrict these permits drastically. Biden is reviewing those policies and has delayed a Trump rule for the H-1B visa selection system based on wages.
- DACA: One of Biden’s first actions was to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump attempted to end, only to be stopped by the Supreme Court. So-called “Dreamers” have a path to citizenship under the president’s sweeping immigration proposal. At the same time, senators on both sides of the aisle have offered standalone bills that would also lead to citizenship.
Is a new day coming for immigrants?
Much of the Biden administration’s early work has been to erase or minimize Trump’s actions over the past four years. The potential changes will be closely monitored by millions of undocumented immigrants, those seeking temporary or long-term employment in the U.S., as well as the 35 million lawful immigrants living here, most of whom are citizens.