The Associated Press is reporting that an agreement has been announced between Senate leaders and the White House regarding comprehensive immigration reform!

Quoting AP:

“The plan would create a temporary worker program to bring new arrivals to the United States. A separate program would cover agricultural workers. New high-tech enforcement measures also would be instituted to verify that workers are here legally.”

“The key breakthrough came when negotiators struck a bargain on a so-called “point system” that would for the first time prioritize immigrants’ education and skill level over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.”

“The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a “Z visa” and – after paying fees and a $5,000 fine – ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first.”

“They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.”

“A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called “triggers” had been activated.”

“Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time.”

“In perhaps the most hotly debated change, the proposed plan would shift from an immigration system primarily weighted toward family ties toward one with preferences for people with advanced degrees and sophisticated skills. Republicans have long sought such revisions, which they say are needed to end “chain migration” that harms the economy, while some Democrats and liberal groups say it’s an unfair system that rips families apart.”

“Family connections alone would no longer be enough to qualify for a green card – except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.”

“New limits would apply to U.S. citizens seeking to bring foreign-born parents into the country.”

The House is not expected to act until a bill passes the Senate, and any Senate bill could run into strong opposition in the generally more conservative House of Representatives. Still, this is a dramatic first step on the path to true immigration reform in the United States.