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Aides: House finalizing immigration bill

WASHINGTON -- A group of Republicans and Democrats in the House is finalizing a sweeping immigration bill that offers work permits and the eventual prospect of citizenship to millions of people living illegally in the United States, aides say.

That path to citizenship, however, is likely to take at least 15 years for many, longer than envisioned by Senate immigration negotiators -- who envision a 10-year path to a green card and then a three-year wait for citizenship -- or by President Barack Obama.

The secretive House effort, which also aims to further tighten the border against foreigners crossing illegally into the United States and crack down on employers who hire them, has been overshadowed by the bipartisan negotiations in the Senate. But it's an important indication that a number of lawmakers, including Republicans, in the conservative-dominated House want to have a say in overhauling immigration law.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), a leader of the group, said on a cable news program in central Texas that the bill should be ready to be released in the next week or two and would address worker visas and the status of the 11 million immigrants who either arrived in the United States illegally or overstayed visas.

According to two House aides with knowledge of the talks, the House bill will offer a couple of possible solutions for those here illegally.

Those brought to the country as young children would be able to seek citizenship relatively quickly. The millions of other people here illegally would be able -- after paying fines and back taxes and getting a criminal-background check -- to get a basic work permit, which would be renewable. After 10 years, they could get a green card.

Under current law, green card holders can petition for citizenship after five years -- three if they're married to a U.S. citizen -- and that would likely apply to green card holders under the House bill, too.

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