Highlights of the Senate immigration bill
Border security spending in the bill totals around $46 billion. The border security improvements are designed to achieve 100 percent surveillance of the border with Mexico and ensure that 90 percent of would-be crossers are caught or turned back. Requirements that must be met over 10 years before anyone here illegally can obtain a permanent resident green card include:
Number of Border Patrol agents: Roughly doubled to at least 38,405 along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Fence: Completing 700 miles of pedestrian fencing — about 350 new miles of fencing.
Electronic verification: Within four years, all employers must implement E-Verify, a program to verify electronically their workers' legal status.
Tracking: Setting up a new electronic system to track people leaving U.S. airports and seaports.
Path to citizenship
If the Department of Homeland Security develops the required upgrades to border security and fencing, the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally could obtain "registered provisional immigrant status" six months after enactment of the bill if:
1. They arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011, and maintained continuous physical presence since then.
2. They do not have a felony conviction or three or more misdemeanors.
3. They pay a $500 fine.
Provisional legal status: lasts six years and is renewable for another six years for $500. People with this status could work and travel in the U.S. but wouldn't be eligible for most federal benefits, including health care and welfare.
Green card application: After 10 years in provisional status, immigrants can seek a green card and lawful permanent resident status if they are current on their taxes and pay a $1,000 fine, have maintained continuous physical presence in the United States, meet work requirements and learn English. Also the border triggers must have been met, and all people waiting to immigrate through the legal system as of the date of enactment of the legislation must have been dealt with.
Youths: People brought to the country as youths would be able to get green cards in five years, and citizenship thereafter.
Cap on H-1B visas: would be immediately raised from 65,000 a year to 110,000 a year, with 25,000 more set aside for people with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math from a U.S. school. The cap could go as high as 180,000 a year.
Exemptions: Immigrants with certain extraordinary abilities, such as professors, researchers, multinational executives and athletes, would be exempted from existing green-card limits. So would graduates of U.S. universities with job offers and degrees in science, technology, engineering or math.
Startup visa: would be made available to foreign entrepreneurs seeking to come to the U.S. to start a company.
New merit visa: For a maximum of 250,000 people a year, would award points to prospective immigrants based on their education, employment, length of residence in the U.S. and other considerations.
New W visa: would allow up to 200,000 low-skilled workers a year into the country for jobs in construction, long-term care, hospitality and other industries.
Agriculture worker visa: The existing program would be replaced. Agriculture workers already here illegally, who have worked in the industry at least two years, could qualify in another five years for green cards if they stay in the industry.
Under current law, U.S. citizens can sponsor spouses, children and siblings to come to the U.S., with limits on some categories. The bill would bar citizens from sponsoring siblings and would allow them to sponsor married sons and daughters only if those children are under age 31.