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A bill was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate that could overhaul the immigration system and result in a reduction of current immigration numbers by half over the next ten years. This bill is called the RAISE (Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy) Act.

Part of what the RAISE Act seeks to accomplish is to replace the current employment-based immigrant visa system with a merit-based selection process. Under the proposed process, points would be assigned to prospective immigrants based on their education, English-language ability, high-paying job offers, age, extraordinary achievements, and high-value investments. Points would favor 26 to 30-year olds in the age category, with declining point value after age 30 and no points assigned to applicants age 51 or older. Education, career achievements and compensation level will provide the highest number of possible points across all categories. If an applicant has a job offer, they would have to include an affidavit from the prospective employer that states the salary being offered, that it will provide health insurance to the applicant, and that the job offer is for a new or vacant position and no U.S. employee is being displaced.

Here is an idea of how the merit-based selection process would work: Applicants would be required to have at least 30 points (out of a possible 102) to even be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. Eligible applicants would then be placed in a pool from which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would invite the highest-scoring applicants to fill out full visa applications and undergo security screening. The invitation from USCIS to the highest scorers would occur twice a year. Applicants not selected from the pool after one year would have to reapply to be re-entered into the pool of eligible candidates.

The biggest change for employers sponsoring employees for permanent residence under the RAISE Act would be the shift from the current preference categories (extraordinary ability, outstanding researcher, multinational managers and executives, professional/skills workers, advanced degree holders) to the merit-based system and its new categories. Strategically, if the Act is passed into law, employers would be wise to sponsor employees as early as possible to maximize the number of opportunities for selection.

There is a widespread sense that the RAISE Act will not be approved by Congress, though the Trump administration’s support of the bill is indicative of changes that may also be proposed related to reform of the H-1B (specialty occupation) visa program.

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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