Biden eases green card process for spouses of US citizens

US President Joe Biden has made it easier for hundreds of thousands of spouses of US citizens to obtain permanent residency. “We can both secure the border and offer legal pathways to citizenship,” Biden said on Tuesday at the White House in Washington. His presumed election challenger Donald Trump criticized the move, and praise came from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, among others.

When announcing the new measure, Biden also called for understanding for the fears of US citizens regarding illegal immigration. He accused Trump of playing on these fears.

The new rules will apply to all applicants who have been in the United States for at least ten years and who married a U.S. citizen before June 17, 2024 – according to government estimates, this affects around 500,000 people. In addition, there are 50,000 stepchildren of U.S. citizens to whom the new rules will also apply.

The simplified procedure for spouses will, among other things, eliminate the obligation to leave the country while the application is being processed. In future, applicants will first be granted a work permit and a three-year residence permit. Those who receive a green card after the procedure has been completed can theoretically also apply for US citizenship later.

On Tuesday, the US government also simplified access to work visas for so-called Dreamers – immigrants who came to the US as children – if they can show a university degree and a job offer.

Migration policy is one of the central themes of the US presidential election campaign. The opposition Republicans of former President Trump accuse Biden in particular of being too lax in his approach to irregular migration across the border with Mexico. However, a renewed attempt to significantly tighten immigration laws failed at the end of May due to resistance from Republicans in the US Congress.

Biden and his Democrats accuse Trump and the Republicans of blocking the plans because they want to exploit the porosity of the US border for political gain. As in his previous election campaigns, Trump is relying on aggressive rhetoric against immigrants, whom he generally defames as a security threat to the USA.

Although Biden single-handedly tightened the rules for migrants at the border with Mexico with an executive order two weeks ago, he is trying to distance himself from his rival's hard line by easing the restrictions for migrants already living in the country.

Trump again accused Biden on Tuesday of doing nothing about the “invasion” of illegal immigrants and instead granting “a mass amnesty.”

Mexican President Obrador, however, welcomed the measures as a “step forward”.

Praise also came from the American Business Immigration Coalition. Biden's reform is “morally right, economically sensible and politically smart,” said executive director Rebecca Shi.