Recently, United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced a new immigration bill called the “ Achieve Act ” for vote in Congress. The proposed bill itself is a follow-up to the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)” administrative program issued by President Obama earlier this year. Essentially, the “ Achieve Act ” proposes a three-tier system of non-immigrant status for foreign nationals who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, similar to DACA. While the “ Achieve Act ” extends applicants the potential to obtain long-term non-immigrant status, it explicitly does not allow the possibility of adjustment to permanent resident status through the Act. However, it does allow the alien to transfer to permanent residency to any of the current avenues available through immigration law. The proposed tiers of non-immigrant status and the requirements for each tier are detailed below.
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. A W-1 visa holder would have 6 years to get a degree or enlist to serve four years in the military. The requirements to be eligible for W-1 Status are:
(1) Applicant must have lived in the United States for five years prior to enactment;
(2) Applicant must have entered the country before the age of 14;
(3) Applicant must have good moral character;
(4) Applicant must not have committed a felony, must not have committed more than one misdemeanor, must not have committed a crime of moral turpitude, and must not have a final order of removal pending;
(5) Applicant must have knowledge of the English language, of American history, and of principles of U.S. government;
(6) 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);
(7) Applicants pay an application fee; and
(8) Applicants complete a medical exam and submit biometric and biographic data as part of a background check.
To maintain W-1 visa status, visa holders:
(1) Must check in every six months with the DHS, and be compliant with program requirements;
(2) Must not access public welfare benefits;
(3) Must not access federal student loans, or other federal benefits, but may work while in school; and
(4) 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). The requirements to be eligible for W-2 Status are:
(1) 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;
(2) Pay an application fee; and
(3) 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 (permanent) nonimmigrant (no special pathway to citizenship) visa. The requirements to be eligible for W-3 Status are:
(1) Must have complied with all requirements/eligibility standards for W-1 and W-2 status;
(2) No eligibility for public welfare benefits;
(3) W-3 status renewable every four years; and
(4) No new green cards are added in the Act, but a W-3 visa recipient could apply under current law to obtain one and get in line.