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STARS Act (2012)


MAY 31, 2012  |  Download Adobe PDF icon

STARS Act: Summary

Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act

The Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act (H.R. 5869) was introduced on May 29, 2012, by Rep. David Rivera (R-FL). It would permit certain immigrant students ages 18 or younger who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for a temporary lawful immigration status, and eventually to obtain lawful permanent residence and potentially U.S. citizenship, if they meet certain conditions, including graduation from a 4-year college within 5 years.

Path to legal residency: Who would qualify?

To qualify for temporary lawful status under the STARS Act, individuals would be required to show that they:

  • Are age 18 or younger (age 20 or younger in the case of  non-U.S. citizens who were granted voluntary departure when they were age 18 or younger).
  • Came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger.
  • Have been present in the U.S. for a continuous period of at least 5 years before the date of the bill’s enactment, with no departures exceeding 90 days or totalling more than 180 days.
  • Have maintained good moral character since entering the U.S.
  • Have earned a high school diploma or GED in the U.S.
  • Have been admitted to a 4-year U.S. university.
  • Haven’t been convicted of a felony or 3 misdemeanors, aren’t a security risk, and aren’t inadmissible or removable on certain other grounds.

Applicants who met those requirements and paid the application fees and a $525 surcharge would qualify for conditional nonimmigrant status (CNS). Successful applicants who failed to enroll at a 4-year college within a year of obtaining CNS would have their CNS terminated.

Conditional nonimmigrant status

Conditional nonimmigrant status would be awarded for an initial period of five years.

Conditional nonimmigrants would be able establish residency in the U.S. and would be considered lawfully present for all purposes, except they wouldn’t be allowed to travel for a period longer than 180 days outside of the U.S. and wouldn’t be eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s premium assistance tax credits or for the ACA’s reduced cost sharing provisions.

Requirements to lift the condition and obtain lawful permanent resident status

At the end of the conditional period, the conditional nonimmigrant would need to apply for a 5-year extension of CNS and pay the application fees and an additional $2,000 surcharge. The extension would be granted if, during the conditional period, the immigrant had maintained good moral character, avoided lengthy trips abroad, and graduated from a 4-year university. Three years after an immigrant obtained the extension, he or she could apply for lawful permanent residence any time before the 10-year anniversary of the initial grant of CNS or the expiration date of the extension of CNS status.

The eligibility requirements for adjusting to lawful permanent status would be essentially the same as those for the extension of CNS, except that the applicant would have to satisfy the English-language and knowledge-of-history-and-civics requirements for citizenship, which include passing an English literacy test and demonstrating an understanding of the history and form of government of the U.S.  In addition, the individual would have to pay any federal taxes and interest that was due.

The below table illustrates some of the key differences between DREAM and STARS:




Who is eligible for conditional nonimmigrant status? Individuals  younger than 36 (32 in House version) Individuals younger than 19
Duration of conditional nonimmigrant status 6 years 8-10 years
Who is eligible for lawful permanent residence at the end of the conditional period? Individuals who have graduated from a two-year college or certain vocational colleges, or studied for at least 2 years toward a B.A. or higher degree, or who have served in the U.S. armed forces for at least 2 years Individuals who have graduated from a 4-year college
Repeals law that discourages states from providing in-state tuition without regard to immigration status Yes No
Conditional nonimmigrants required by ACA to have health insurance Yes Yes
Conditional nonimmigrants eligible for ACA benefits that help lower-income people defray the cost of health insurance Yes No
Total surcharges paid by noncitizen before becoming a lawful permanent resident $0 $2,525