"Our goal is to pass something this summer in time for kids who plan to go to school this fall," Rubio press secretary Alex Conant said Monday.
"So just like lots of people come to the United States on work visas or on student visas or tourism visas or whatever, this would be a non-immigrant visa, so it would be a temporary one," Conant said. "It wouldn't be permanent. But the intent here is if they choose to remain in the United States permanently that they could apply for permanent residence just like any other immigrant would."
Rubio's proposal is an alternative to the Democrat-backed DREAM Act, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were young and then go to college or serve in the military.
Conant said Rubio's legislation would not mean the immigrants would be deported after their visa runs out.
"They could apply for permanent residence after a certain amount of time without having to return to their country of origin," Conant said. "They'd be like any other immigrant except that they could wait while they're in the United States. The Democrats' DREAM Act doesn't have them leaving the country but, as I said, it creates a special pathway for them."
Rubio's office does not yet have an estimate on how many new visas would be issued under the proposal. Conant said it depends on what the qualifying age for the visas in the legislation will be.
A day earlier, Rubio defended the proposal against criticism that it was a form of amnesty.
"We use the existing immigration system to deal with a humanitarian issue. And that is these children who entered this country illegally or have overstayed visas illegally, through no fault of their own," Rubio said on Fox News Sunday. "These are children, they follow their parents. The parents put them in this predicament."