Today, August 2, 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia), with the support of President Trump, announced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, a bill which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act and implement significant changes to the current U.S. immigration system.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The RAISE Act primarily focuses on significant reforms to the bases for immigrant visa (“green card”) eligibility. In addition to provisions eliminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa program and limiting the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to 50,000 per year, the RAISE Act would replace the current employment-based preference system with a points-based system and would eliminate some of the current family-based green card categories.
We summarize each of the major provisions of the bill below:
Establishing a Points-Based Immigration System
The RAISE Act would create a points-based system for the allocation of employment-based green cards. Under the system, green card applicants would first be placed in an “Eligible Applicant Pool” and would be allocated points based on several factors, including age (with preference given to applicants between the ages of 26 and 30), English proficiency, education (with preference given to advanced U.S. degrees in STEM fields), extraordinary achievement, and job opportunity. Individuals must accrue at least 30 points in order to join the “Eligible Applicant Pool” and applicants with the highest number of points would then be “invited” to file an immigrant visa petition, documenting that he or she is entitled to all of the points claimed in the initial application. Applicants who are not invited to apply for an immigrant visa within 12 months would have to reapply.
Under the new system, the number of employment-based green cards available each year would remain 140,000, but green cards would first be allocated to those with the highest number of points. Once all visas have been allocated, remaining applications would be delayed until the next fiscal year.
The switch to a points-based system would also mean the elimination of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.
The RAISE Act also calls for quadrennial reporting to reassess and potentially reallocate points and points categories.
Limiting Family-Based Immigration Categories
The RAISE Act would limit eligibility for Family-Based green cards to spouses and minor children of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), excluding adult sons and daughters, parents, and siblings who are currently included under the current system.
RAISE would provide for a nonimmigrant visa classification (“W Visa”) for parents of adult U.S. Citizens (of at least 21 years of age) enabling them to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis for up to five (5) years. This period could be renewed in 5-year increments while the U.S. Citizen is still residing in the U.S. The new W Visa holders would not be permitted to work or receive public benefits while in the U.S.
Redefining “Minor” Child
The RAISE Act would also lower the age to qualify as a minor child for purposes of accruing an immigration benefit from 21 to 18. Children over the age of 18 would therefore no longer be included as dependents on a parent’s application or be eligible for green card sponsorship by a U.S. Citizen or LPR parent.
While no longer eligible to receive green cards as dependents, the Act does permit adult children who are unable to care for themselves to be admitted into the U.S. on a temporary basis, though they would not be permitted to work or receive public benefits while in the U.S..
Eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery
The RAISE Act would completely eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program). The DV Program, which was established by the Immigration Act of 1990, currently makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States through a random selection process.
Limiting Refugees Admissions
The RAISE Act would limit refugee admissions to the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) to 50,000, which is significantly lower than the 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration.
Limiting Access to Government Assistance Programs
The RAISE Act would prohibit green card holders from receiving welfare benefits during the 5-year period following receipt of their green card, despite being required to pay state and federal taxes during this period.
Limiting Eligibility for Naturalization
The RAISE Act would limit an LPR’s ability to apply for U.S. Citizenship (“Naturalization”) if he or she received any means-tested public benefits during the 5-year period following receipt of their green card which were not reimbursed by the Sponsor for the green card application.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
This bill has not yet been officially introduced and does not immediately implement any changes to the current U.S. immigration system. RAISE would ultimately require 60 votes in order to make it through the Senate. An earlier version of RAISE was introduced into Congress in February, but the legislation stalled. Early predictions indicate that the Trump administration will face difficulty raising the 60 Senate votes needed to pass the Act into law, however, this remains a developing situation and D&S will closely monitor this and provide updates as available.