Citizenship & Immigration Services will raise its filing fees, effective July 30, 2007. The fee increase, which will affect all applications for citizenship, green cards and temporary visas, is the largest in the agency’s history, with some fees more than doubling.

The nation is buzzing about the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform measure being considered by the Senate starting May 21, 2007. If the current bill is passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, it is very likely to be signed by President Bush, possibly as early as this summer.

The most exciting part of the bill is the Z visa, which would provide a pathway to lawful permanent resident status, and eventually citizenship, for workers who have been illegally in the country since before Jan. 1, 2007. The Z visa would also give status to the spouse, children and elderly parents of qualifying immigrants.

But all is not lost for those who don’t meet the Jan. 1 deadline for the Z visa. The new law would also create temporary two-year work visas for people who want to find work in the U.S. in the future and who can be matched with a willing U.S. employer. The two-year visas will also provide temporary status for spouses and minor children.

The proposed law is sure to impose stiffer enforcement measures for those who do not take advantage of the new legal immigration options while they are available. This will include more border patrol agents, fencing and cameras, as well as longer detention for illegal immigrants. So immediate action will be critical for correcting past immigration problems.

Immigration attorneys are closely watching congressional action on the proposed bill. We will keep you updated of any developments and how they affect you.

Q: How long do I have to be in the U.S. to qualify for the new law?
A: Immigrants who have been in the U.S. illegally since Jan. 1, 2007, and who are employed can qualify for a Z visa under the new law. The visa creates a pathway to legal permanent resident status and eventually to citizenship.

Q: If I get a Z visa, will my family also be able to get status?
A: Spouses, children and elderly parents of qualified workers will also be able to get legal permanent residence under the new law.

Q: If I apply for a Z visa, will I get arrested or deported?
A: The enforcement provisions of the new law apply only to illegal immigrants who enter the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2007. Once the new law is passed, there will be a deadline to apply for protection under the Z visa, so it will be important to take action as soon as possible.

Q: What can I do right now to prepare for the new law?
A: The best way to prepare for the new law is to gather documentation that shows that you have been illegally present and employed in the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2007, and to consult with an immigration professional about your case immediately.