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Senate plan alters immigrants’ waiting periods

WASHINGTON — The nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants would have to wait a full decade for a green card but could earn citizenship just three years after that, under a measure being finalized by a bipartisan group of eight senators working to craft an overhaul of immigration law, several people with knowledge of the negotiations said.

Taken together, the two waiting periods would provide the nation’s illegal immigrants workers with a path to US citizenship in 13 years, matching the draft of a plan by President Obama to offer full participation in US democracy to millions who are living in fear of deportation.

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The arrangement would shrink the amount of time it takes to become a naturalized citizen, from five years to three years. But in an appeal to Republicans, it would also extend to 10 years, from eight, the amount of time that illegal immigrants must wait before receiving permission to work in the United States permanently.

Such a compromise might give both sides something to crow about: Republicans could argue that they pushed for a longer waiting period before an immigrant could get a green card, which allows its holder to remain and work in the country indefinitely. Democrats could say that illegal immigrants would become citizens faster.

‘‘It is an unusual construction, but it gets them to citizenship in the same time as the administration plan,’’ said Kevin Appleby, the director of migration policy at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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