Proposed RAISE Act Introduces Merit-Based System for Employment-Based Immigration

 

In a move receiving the support of the Administration, on August 2, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and David Perdue (R-Georgia) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (“RAISE”) Act.

If enacted, the RAISE Act would replace our current employment-based immigration system with a merit-based system that awards points relative to education, ability to speak English, offered salary, age, extraordinary achievement, and entrepreneurial initiative. Twice a year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would invite the highest scorers to file visa applications and undergo security vetting.

A minimum of 30 points would be required in order to be eligible for an employment-based visa under the proposed system. The following individuals would earn the most points: individuals with a high score on their English language proficiency test; individuals with a U.S. professional degree or a doctorate in a STEM field; individuals aged 26-30; individuals who have been awarded a Nobel Prize or comparable recognition in a scientific field; individuals who won an Olympic medal or came in first place in an international sporting event in which the best athletes in an Olympic sport were represented; individuals with an offered annual salary at least 300% of the median household income in the state of employment; and individuals who invest at least $1.35 million in a new commercial enterprise.  Unfortunately, an individual’s field of work or special skills would generally not be taken into account when awarding points.

Under the proposed merits-based system, 140,000 employment-based green cards would be awarded each year – the same number allotted under our current immigration system. The RAISE Act does not offer a solution to current immigrant visa backlogs, particularly for Chinese and Indian nationals waiting to receive a green card. Therefore, we would expect backlogs in green card issuance to continue under this proposed system.

In addition to overhauling our current employment-based immigration system, the RAISE Act would also significantly reduce family-based immigration. The RAISE Act would restrict U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsoring only spouses and minor children for green cards. The RAISE Act would also eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which currently awards 50,000 immigrant visas per year to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Further, the RAISE Act would limit the number of refugees entering the United States to 50,000 per year.

If passed, the RAISE Act would greatly reshape U.S. immigration law and would ultimately reduce U.S. immigration by at least 50%. However, it will likely face significant opposition from pro-immigration members of Congress and U.S. businesses. The full text of the RAISE Act can be accessed here.

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