On August 2, 2017, President Donald Trump provided an endorsement of a new bill in the Senate intended to reform the current employment-based immigration system and reduce certain non-employment categories within the current immigration framework.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (the RAISE Act) is a modified version of a bill previously introduced by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (AR) and David Perdue (GA) which would replace the current employment-based immigration system with a skills-based points system. President Trump heralded the RAISE Act as prioritising immigrants based on skills while safeguarding the interests of American workers.
The RAISE Act would eliminate the Diversity Visa lottery program and limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year. Family-based immigrant categories offering permanent residency to extended family and grown adult family members of US residents would also be eliminated under the RAISE Act, and a renewable temporary visa would be established for US residents who need to bring elderly parents to the US for care taking purposes. Spouses and minor children of US residents would continue to be eligible to immigrate.The RAISE Act would also condition naturalisation on the immigrant fulfilling its obligation to reimburse the federal government for means-tested public benefits, as required under current law, and immigrant households arriving through the points system would be ineligible for federal means-tested benefits for a period of 5 years.
The RAISE Act would fundamentally change the current immigration system, and estimates project a 50% reduction in overall immigration levels over 10 years, primarily by slashing immigrants entering the US through family connections. Though touted as prioritizing skills-based immigration, the proposal would maintain the current levels of employment-based immigration at 140,000 per year. Modeled after the merit-based immigration system used by Canada and Australia, the RAISE Act’s immigration system would award points for education, age, English proficiency, extraordinary achievement, high-paying job offers, and entrepreneurial initiative.
Under the points-based system, applicants would require a minimum number of points to enter the pool of potential immigrants from which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would invite the highest scorers to file applications every six months. To be eligible to enter the applicant pool, immigrants without a degree higher than a bachelor’s would require a job offer with an annual salary of at least 150 percent of the median household income in the State in which the applicant will be employed.
Although the prospects of the proposed bill appear to be limited, the endorsement may draw increased attention to legislative efforts to modify the existing immigration laws. While the RAISE Act would have the effect of increasing the proportion of employment-based green cards through cutting other family-based categories, actual employment-based immigration levels would remain largely unchanged.
As changes within the political and immigration landscape in the US continue to develop, PwC Law LLP will remain at the forefront of these changes and keep our clients informed. The reforms proposed in the RAISE Act face opposition from both parties in Congress, and in the unlikely event that the legislation succeeds, the implementation of such changes would not be immediate. Understanding the impact of future policy changes on businesses is essential to making strategic decisions from a global mobility perspective, and PwC Law will ensure clients are kept abreast of any developments.
For further details regarding the recent immigration proposals, or any other immigration matter, please contact a member of our team.