A source passes along this proposal of a DREAM Act alternative, called the “Achieve Act,” from a Republican senator. A few key points: eligible non-legal immigrants would have to get a college degree of some sort or serve for four years in the military. They would then get a four-year work visa. After that, they would be able to apply for a permanent visa. Eligible young adults would have had to be 14 or younger when they arrived in this country, and be no older than 28 (or in some circumstances) 32. The details of the Achieve Act right now:
W-1 Status: Those with a W-1 nonimmigrant visa would attend school to earn a bachelor’s, associate’s, vocational/technical, or advanced degree, or serve in the U.S. military for 4 years, while here on a W-1 nonimmigrant visa. A W-1 visa holder would have 6 years to get a degree; individuals in school could work while earning the degree.
To be eligible:
Applicant must have lived in the United States for five years prior to the Act’s enactment;
Applicant must have entered the country before the age of 14;
Applicant must have good moral character;
Applicant must not have committed a felony, must not have committed more than one misdemeanor with ajail term of more than 30 days, must not have committed a crime of moral turpitude, and must not have a final order of removal pending;
Applicant must have knowledge of the English language, of American history, and of principles of U.S. government;
Applicant must be 28 or younger at the time of application (unless applicant is under 32 and possesses a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college at the time of application);
Applicants pay a $525 application fee;
Applicants complete a medical exam, sign up for U.S. Selective Service, and submit biometric and biographic data as part of a background check.
To maintain W-1 visa status, visa holders:
Must check in every six months with DHS, and be compliant with program requirements;
Must not access public welfare benefits;
Must not access federal student loans, work study, or other benefits or services under the Higher Education Act;
Do not have access to a green card while here on the W-1 visa.
W-2 Status: After completing all W-1 education/military service requirements, a recipient can obtain a W-2 visa, which is a four-year nonimmigrant work visa (also allowed, study toward a master’s degree or higher).
Criteria for obtaining W-2 status:
Recipient must have earned a bachelor’s, associate’s, or vocational/technical degree in the U.S. while here on the W-1 visa or have served four years in the U.S. Armed Forces;
Pay a $525 application fee;
Continue to meet W-1 criteria (no criminal record, check in with DHS, etc.).
W-3 Status: After completing four years of work while holding a W-2 visa, a recipient can then apply for a non-conditional (permanent) nonimmigrant (no special pathway to citizenship) visa.
Must have complied with all requirements/eligibility standards for W-1 and W-2 status;
No eligibility for public welfare benefits;
W-3 status renewable every four years;
No new green cards are added in the Act, but a W-3 visa recipient could take advantage of opportunities in current law to obtain one; for example, if a W-3 visa holder were to marry a U.S. citizen, that alien, already in W-3 status and now married to a U.S. citizen, would be eligible for a green card (legal permanent resident status). Citizenship could follow after the requisite number of years required in green card status (and processing usually takes around a year after that).
A Senate GOP aide e-mails the conservative case for the proposal, arguing that it addresses concerns about chain migration:
Children who grew up in the U.S. but are undocumented are a humanitarian issue — they don’t have a legal claim, but they do have a humanitarian one. There is broad, bipartisan support for legalizing their status, but many conservatives have opposed the DREAM Act because it would create a special pathway to citizenship, allowing them to get in front of millions of would-be immigrants who are following the rules, and potentially creating a problem of chain migration.
The ACHIEVE Act addresses this problem by giving the undocumented children nonimmigrant visas so that they can go to school and work in the U.S., and, after 10 years, puts them on the regular pathway towards permanent residence (and, if they choose, citizenship), just like any other legal immigrant. (The President’s executive order this summer was similar, but only temporary, which is why we must still find a permanent solution for these young people.)