On August 2, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a revision to the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act. The main purpose of this bill is to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to:

  1. Establish a skills-based immigration points system;
  2. Focus family-sponsored immigration on spouses and minor children;
  3. Eliminate the Diversity Visa Program; and
  4. Set a limit on the number of refugees admitted annually to the United States.

What Would the RAISE Act Do?

If passed, the RAISE Act would make significant changes to the current legal immigration system in the United States, including, but not limited to:

  1. Establish a skill-based immigration points system

The RAISE Act would replace the current employment-based immigration preference categories with a points system. Out of 100-points, foreign nationals would receive points based on their education level, offered salary, investment level, achievements, age, and English-language proficiency. They would have to earn at least 30 points to be eligible for an employment-based green card. Spouses of foreign nationals would also undergo a points assessment that can either maintain or decrease the foreign national’s score.

Twice a year, applicants with the highest scores on this immigration assessment system would be invited to apply for permanent residence. The maximum green card quota would be set at 140,000 per year.

  1. Focus family-sponsored immigration on spouses and minor children

The RAISE Act would set limitations on family-based immigration. The bill would eliminate green card categories for:

  • Adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and permanent residents;
  • Siblings of U.S. citizens;
  • Parents of U.S. citizens age 21 and over. This will be replaced with a temporary visa category granting parents to enter the United States for a renewable period of five years without work authorization or access to public benefits.

Additionally, the maximum age for dependent children would be reduced from 20 years to 17 years of age for all U.S. immigration programs.

The family-based green card quota would be limited to 88,000 per year. Currently approved family-based immigrants in categories that the RAISE Act would eliminate will either be grandfathered, or will be granted points that can be used in an employment-based immigration category.

  1. Eliminate the Eliminate the Diversity Visa Program

The Diversity Visa Program currently awards 50,000 green cards annually on a lottery basis to foreign nationals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. The RAISE Act would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program entirely and not provide a replacement.

  1. Set a limit on the number of refugees admitted annually to the United States

Lastly, the RAISE Act would reduce the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to 50,000 per year. To give some perspective, the U.S. received 85,000 refugees in 2016.

Will I Be Affected by the RAISE Act?

If passed, the RAISE Act would have significant impact on applicants of employment-based immigration green cards, family members of family-based immigration, applicants of the Diversity Visa Program, and refugees seeking entrance into the U.S. Most recently, the bill is still in the initial stages in the Senate, having been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

While the revision of the RAISE Act has received support from President Trump, the bill is currently opposed by most Democrats and several Republicans in the Senate. Likewise, the previous version of the RAISE Act was largely ignored by the Senate and Republican leaders have shown no inclination to vote on immigration in 2017.

Our offices will continue to keep you up to date regarding the RAISE Act and its legislative status.