The House of Representatives passed the $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better Act” budget reconciliation bill, 220-213, on November 19, 2021. It includes $100 billion toward immigration measures, including provisions paving the way for employees and others waiting in backlogs, and increases in some immigration-related fees. It also would provide for up to 10 years of work authorization and protection from removal for undocumented people who have been living in the United States since before 2011, and $2.8 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to reduce processing backlogs. The House bill would also recapture more than 200,000 unused green cards. 

In addition, it would provide for diversity visas for those refused a visa, prevented from seeking admission, or denied admission to the United States solely because of certain executive orders and limitations on visa processing, visa issuance, travel and other effects associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate will take up the bill next, likely in December. It remains to be seen whether the bill will become law in its current version or will be revised or defeated. Among various factors, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough earlier rejected several previous immigration-related provisions in the draft bill, such as a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but observers believe some provisions may survive her scrutiny, such as one that would recover roughly 400,000 currently unused green cards.

Below are selected highlights of the House-passed version of the “Build Back Better Act”:

Green Card Provisions for Immigrants Waiting in Backlogs

The House bill’s provisions would allow an employee waiting for more than two years in the backlog of approved legal immigration applications to pay a supplemental fee of $5,000 and file for adjustment of status without waiting for a priority date to become available. Those with approved green card applications awaiting visa availability could pay $1,500 to essentially jump the queue and file for adjustment.

Work Permits

As noted above, the House bill would allow about seven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States since before 2011 to stay in the United States through parole, and to be eligible for work permits valid for five years (renewable once), authorization to travel, and driver’s licenses if they file an application and pay a fee. They could also apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. They would need to pass background checks. 

Fee Increases

Examples of supplemental immigration-related fees that would be imposed by the House bill, if passed, include:

  • $100 for certain family-sponsored immigrant visa petitions (Forms I-130) 
  • $800 for each employment-based immigrant visa petition (Forms I-140) 
  • $15,000 for each employment-based fifth preference petition (Forms I-526) 

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