For nearly a century, immigration registry has provided a process for individuals who have lived in the U.S. for a significant number of years to apply for lawful permanent status. Unfortunately, Congress has failed to update the eligibility requirements for decades, prohibiting many immigrants, including millions who are undocumented, from adjusting status through registry.
A new bill in Congress would restore this long-standing process by establishing a rolling eligibility date for registry, allowing individuals who have lived in and contributed to the United States for many years to access this lawful pathway to permanent status and ultimately citizenship.
As many as 8.3 million individuals could be initially eligible to adjust status if the registry date is advanced to January 1, 2016, including 7.3 million individuals who are undocumented and who have lived in the U.S. for 19 years on average.
FWD.us has long supported updating the registry date and supports this bill—here’s why.
Under this bill, individuals would be eligible to apply for permanent status after living continuously in the United States for at least seven years.
Immigration registry bill would restore existing pathway to permanent status for millions of long-term U.S. residents
On March 9, 2023, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), along with 48 original co-sponsors, introduced a new immigration registry bill, the “Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929” (H.R. 1511).
This legislation would provide access to lawful permanent resident status for millions of individuals, most of whom are currently undocumented, by advancing the date for eligibility under immigration registry.
Immigration registry is an existing process that allows individuals to apply for permanent resident status (a green card) on the basis of their long-term residency in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status. Currently, eligibility for immigration registry requires individuals to have entered and remained in the U.S. since January 1, 1972.
The new immigration registry bill would replace the 1972 cutoff date with a rolling eligibility, allowing individuals to apply for registry after living continuously in the United States for at least seven years and meeting certain admissibility requirements.
An estimated 8.3 million individuals, including 7.3 million individuals who are undocumented, could be initially eligible to adjust status.
Millions of individuals, including Dreamers, TPS holders, and backlogged green card applicants, could be eligible for registry
In general, most undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today have lived here for many, many years, and have set down roots and established ties to their local communities and economies. Most would likely be eligible for registry under the new rolling dates.
Approximately 7.3 million undocumented individuals could be eligible under the advanced eligibility date. These individuals have lived in the U.S. for an average of 19 years and are an average of 40 years old, according to FWD.us estimates.
Within this group, 2.7 million are Dreamers who came to the U.S. as children, including virtually all current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients who, under the policy’s requirements, had to have entered the U.S. before July 1, 2007. Additionally, at least 300,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders could be eligible. Roughly 1.1 million potentially eligible individuals are married to a U.S. citizen, and nearly 2.5 million have U.S. citizen children.
An additional 970,000 people who currently hold nonimmigrant status could be eligible to adjust under the bill as well, including some individuals who hold employment-based visas like H-1B specialty workers who have been approved for green cards but are stuck waiting indefinitely in backlogs.
9.8 million U.S. citizens, including nearly 4.8 million U.S. citizen children, live in households with individuals who would be initially eligible to secure permanent status through registry.
Restoring registry would keep American families together and help address workforce challenges
Restoring access to registry would help American families, particularly millions of mixed status families with family members who hold different immigration and citizenship statuses. FWD.us estimates that 9.8 million U.S. citizens, including nearly 4.8 million U.S. citizen children, live in households with individuals who would initially be eligible to secure permanent status through registry.
This legislation would also unlock significant economic potential at a time when U.S. businesses are struggling to find workers to fill open jobs across industries. Through registry, many individuals already in the workforce would have a pathway to remain in the U.S. and contribute even more substantially as permanent residents and, eventually, citizens.
In all, nearly 6.3 million immigrants already in the workforce would be initially covered by the bill, the majority (5.5 million) of whom are undocumented Some 4.9 million, or covered by the bill are working in industries with worker shortages. Workers covered by the bill already contribute approximately $235 billion to the U.S. economy each year after the payment of $76 billion in federal, payroll, state, and local taxes. Undocumented workers alone would contribute $121 billion more to the U.S. economy each year through their wages and $35 billion more in combined taxes, if they were able to become citizens through this pathway.
And allowing individuals who have lived in the U.S. for a significant number of years to adjust status is a popular, bipartisan policy. Polling repeatedly shows that the American public supports allowing long-term undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States permanently and access a pathway to citizenship.
Congress should once again restore this pathway by passing the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929.
Congress has historically advanced registry dates, but has stalled for nearly 40 years
Immigration registry has existed for nearly a century, and reflects the enduring principle that long-standing presence in and ties to the United States favor access to permanent status and citizenship.
Congress advanced the registry date four times since it was first established in 1929, each time allowing more recent arrivals to access a pathway to citizenship under the law. These advances had bipartisan support and were signed into law by presidents of both parties.
Unfortunately, the most recent legislation to advance the registry date was signed in 1986, nearly four decades ago. While Congress intended registry to provide a mechanism for long-term undocumented immigrants to adjust their status, the outdated eligibility requirements have effectively closed off this pathway.
Congress should once again restore this pathway and provide relief to millions of undocumented individuals and their children and families here in the United States by passing the Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929.