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

January 21, 2021

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.

Please contact your Varnum immigration attorney with any questions.

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