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Biden Administration Announces Immigration Policy Changes: What You Need to Know

On his first day in office, President Biden signed 17 executive orders. The following relate to immigration issues:

  • Count non-citizens in the U.S. Census

  • Safeguard Dreamers/DACA program and call on Congress to grant permanent status and path to citizenship

  • End Muslim travel ban to allow for travel and visa applications for individuals from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania

  • End order to ICE to prioritize arrests of undocumented immigrants

  • Stop border wall construction

  • Reinstate deferred enforcement departure through June 30, 2022 to allow Liberians to either work and live in the U.S. temporarily or, if eligible, apply for permanent residence

President Biden also sent the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress to propose these comprehensive immigration changes:


  • Reform employment-based system to clear backlogs, recapture unused visas, reduce lengthy wait times, eliminate per-country visa caps, reduce obstacles for individuals with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the US, improve access to permanent residence for workers in lower-wage sectors, provide dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, prevent children from "aging out" of the system, incentivize higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas and create a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development

  • Improve the employment verification process


  • Reform family-based immigration system to clear backlogs, recapture unused visas, increase per-country visa caps, eliminate the three- and 10-year bars and allow individuals with approved family-based petitions to join family in the U.S. temporarily while they wait for permanent residence


  • Allow undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status immediately and permanent residence after five years if they pass criminal/national security background checks and pay taxes

  • Allow Dreamers, TPS holders and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements to apply for permanent residence immediately

  • Support asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by eliminating the one-year deadline to file asylum claims and increasing protections for U visa, T visa and VAWA applicants

  • Increase diversity visas from 55,000 to 80,000

  • Improve immigration courts by reducing backlogs, expanding training and protecting vulnerable individuals

Border Protection

  • Prioritize smarter border controls by using technology and infrastructure and fund training programs to promote officer safety and professionalism

  • Prioritize prosecution of individuals involved in smuggling/trafficking networks responsible for the exploitation of migrants

  • Address root causes of migration by increasing assistance to countries in need, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

Employees may approach employers for help under the proposed bill. Employers should consider issuing proactive statements to workers that state until passed and signed, the proposals have no legal effect or protection and that employers will keep employees advised if the immigration reform becomes law.

© 2021 Varnum LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 22

About this Author

Kimberly A. Clarke, Varnum, Immigration Lawyer

Kim focuses her practice on immigration matters, including nonimmigrant petitions, both employment- and family-based permanent residence applications, expatriation and foreign visa issues. She has developed a strong background in the area of worker verification issues and managed clients through internal and agency Form I-9 audits, USICE compliance investigations and civil criminal charges.

In addition, Kim maintains a specialty practice of consultation with agricultural clients and handles various agricultural labor and employment issues such as compliance with...

Nina A. Thekdi, immigration lawyer, Varnum

Nina focuses her practice on business and family-based immigration matters.  Her experience encompasses nonimmigrant visa petitions including H-1B visas, L-1A and L-1B visas, TN visas under the NAFTA treaty, and O-1 visas. She also assists clients with employment-based permanent residence petitions including the labor certifications process, EB-1 extraordinary ability, EB-1 outstanding professor and researchers and EB-1 multinational managers and executives petitions; family-based permanent residence applications; naturalization applications; and foreign visa issues.   ...

Yvonne Kupfermann Employment Lawyer Varnum Law Firm Grand Rapids

Yvonne focuses her practice primarily on employment and family-based immigration in addition to general corporate matters. She assists clients with employment and family-based permanent residence petitions, including the labor certification process, visas for extraordinary ability, and multinational managers and executives petitions. She focuses on visa processing, waivers, DACA and citizenship matters. Additionally, she has experience in general corporate matters, including LLC formation.