How will illegals legalize under 2013 Obama Amnesty?

Who will be eligible for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that provides green card and path to citizenship?

  1. Lived for several years in USA:  The exact timing is not yet clear but anyone who has lived in the US for several years (at least 5 in my opinion) will be eligible.  So foreigners who entered the country only recently will not be eligible.  The alien will also need to demonstrate that they have been in the country for the period required by providing documents.  
  2. Acceptable criminal background:  If you have committed a felony, do not even think about legalizing. It is not clear how many misdemeanors will be allowed but I expect maybe three at the most.  More details have to come later, but if you have many crimes in your background, you need to rethink your future in America (expect deportation in case you are caught without papers).
  3. Pay a fine:  The exact amount will be revealed later but you will need to pay a one-time cash penalty.
  4. Pay back taxes:  The good news about the law is that most likely if you worked illegally or used a falsified Social Security number but were not caught or convicted, you will be forgiven (in other words, no punishment for identity theft or forged papers for working).  However, if you did not file taxes on the money you earned in the United States either because you were being paid cash under the table or you simply did not want to give your money to the IRS, you will need to pay income taxes on every dollar you have earned, along with interest.
  5. Learn English and Civics, equivalent to what is required for passing the naturalization test.  There might be some exceptions for elderly applicants but you will need to demonstrate proficiency in English reading, writing, and speaking through an in-person test with an officer of the USCIS.
What will be the process of legalization?

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As soon as USCIS starts to process the applications, register with the government by getting fingerprinted and providing background information.  Also complete other applications as advised along with paying a fine and back taxes.  If approved, you will be given a temporary/probationary legal status that will enable you to work and live legally.  You will also be able to travel freely outside the United States, more or less like a green card holder.

After the Federal Government has started issuing green cards to people like you, depending on your native country, you will wait for availability of an immigrant visa.  That can take more than a decade for countries like Mexico, but at that point, you will need to go through a more extensive background check, demonstrate good work history, prove that you have been paying taxes regularly, and learn English/Civics to finally get a permanent residency or green card.

After you have been a permanent resident for 5 years (3 years if you married to a US citizen who also has been a citizen for three years and the requirements are even more lenient for those who have served in the Military), you can apply for naturalization and receive a US passport.

A different but less restrictive process will be used for DREAMers and agricultural workers but details are yet to be released.

What are the restrictions?
  1. Since in the beginning, you will have only probationary or temporary legal status, you will not be able to apply for any Federal benefits like Medicare, Medicaid, etc., but individual states may extend other benefits to you like Welfare, Food Stamps (SNAP), unemployment insurance, etc.