The RAISE Act: A proposed ‘points-based’ immigration system

Achieving immigration reform at the congressional level is extremely difficult. As such, most action geared towards immigration reform has been done via Executive Order. President Donald Trump has long expressed his interests in reforming our immigration policies to a more merit-based system. With the signing of his Executive Order earlier this year, he tasked four federal agencies with the review and recommendation of changes pertaining to employment-based worker programs. The ultimate stated goals were: to prevent fraud and abuse and to safeguard American jobs.
Recently, President Trump voiced his support of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy bill, better known as the RAISE Act. The bill seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to eliminate the diversity immigrant visa program and place a 50,000 cap on refugee admissions. The bill’s most significant move is to prioritize immigrants based on the skills they bring to the United States.
In a press release from the White House on August 2nd, President Trump stated that “just 1 out of every 15 immigrants to the United States come here because of their skills.” To change this, the RAISE Act aims to reduce overall immigration numbers to limit low-skilled and unskilled labor entering the U.S. In order to do so, the RAISE Act prioritizes immediate family members (spouses and minor children) and eliminates preferences for extended family members and adult children (over the age of 21). The RAISE Act also purports to establish a nonimmigrant alien W-visa for parents of an adult U.S. citizen.
Most notably, RAISE aims to override the current employment-based system by adopting a merits-based immigration system that rewards individuals based on their education, English-language ability, job prospects, past achievements and entrepreneurial initiative. The points-based system, similar to the ones implemented in Canada and Australia, will prioritize high-skill, among other factors.
Specifically, a foreign national needs at least 30 points to be eligible to apply for immigration to the United States. Furthermore, applicants with the highest number of points would be pushed to the front of the line to receive visas. Although the bill is unlikely to pass Congress in the near future, still, it is an interesting to see how one would fare under the proposed points system.


Kelly S. O’Reilly is a nationally known immigration expert and former immigration officer. He is a highly sought after speaker on immigration and employment compliance issues. Mr. O’Reilly serves as the current chair of the Riverside County Bar Association Immigration section and is a partner in the full-service immigration firm of the Wilner & O’Reilly where he provides free consultations. Mr. O’Reilly can be contacted at (714) 919-8880 and he welcomes email inquiries at  

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