If the recent Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (Raise Act), also known as S.354, is enacted, then it would establish a major overhaul of the immigration system in the United States. The bill would significantly reduce legal immigration levels by eliminating certain family-based categories, redefining some others, and completely removing the Diversity Visa Program. The RAISE Act also replaces the employment-based system with a points system.

Evaluating the proposed system can only be done by understanding what it could mean. The first thing is that the system would be a major departure from the demand-driven model that has been the cornerstone of the employment-based immigration system that allows employers to choose which worker they need for their company subject to federal regulations. While changing to a points system could lead to more highly-skilled immigrants, it might not cause the economic growth and competitiveness people expect, especially if the skilled immigrants are not able to get a job that matches their skills. The second thing is that a points system goes against the core values traditionally embraced by the United States, such as giving everyone an equal chance, fighting against discrimination, protecting the disadvantages, and preserving the family unit.

A preliminary analysis shows that the points system would mean some people are left at a disadvantage; in particular women, people working in the informal economy (including people that do unpaid work), people who have a familial connection to the USA but don’t have a formal education or employment history, middle-aged and older people, and applicants from less-developed countries. This analysis raises some concerns about not just the technical aspects of the points system, but also the founding values upon which the system would be built. Those concerns suggest that lawmakers should consider what impact a new program would have and determine if it is right for America before getting of current categories and replacing them.

What is an Immigrant Points System
and how Does it Work?

  • A point-based immigration system is a way to manage immigration by using a scoring system to determine eligibility for immigration. There are several countries already using a points-based system including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
  • These countries combine these tools with other immigrant management methods based on family relationships, humanitarian issues, and employment-based systems.
  • Points systems are generally based on characteristics valued by a country such as education, work experience, occupation, language, age, and ability.
  • After determining the characteristics and point values, the country then chooses a total amount of points needed before being allowed to enter the country, known as the “pass mark”
  • 1348 (the “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007) proposed a complex points-based system that used a combination of factors such as education, English proficiency, job skills, and family ties. There was much criticism for the proposition because it favored high-skilled and educated immigrants over less-skilled ones. Critics of the bill also said that the system would favor some regions over others, such as placing Latin American immigrants at a disadvantage.
  • 2013 saw the proposition of another points system with the S.744 bill (“The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”) that would allocate new visas based on a points system. If the system had been adopted, it would mean that at least 120,000 foreign-born people were eligible to gain immigrant visas based on points related to their skills, educational credentials, and employment history. Visa slots that currently went to siblings and married adult children of US citizens, along with the Diversity Visa Program would be reallocated to the system.

What is the Specific Points System
of the RAISE Act?

  • There would be 140,000 immigrant visas issued each fiscal year issued through the points system. Spouses and minor children of principal applicants count against this 140,000 cap. This cap is the same as the current cap on employment-based visas.
  • Individuals that are able to apply are placed in a pool of eligible applicants if they score the pass mark of 30 points
  • Allocating points across both tiers would be based on different factors such as age, education, English language proficiency, job offer, extraordinary achievements, and willingness to invest in the United States. Applicants that are granted admission under family preferences but fail to secure a visa within a year of the enactment of the law will also receive extra points.
  • Applicants with spouses accompanying or following them would need to calculate how many points their spouse earns when applying for the points-based visa themselves. If the spouse doesn’t match the points of the applicant, then the points of the applicant are adjusted.

Points are distributed as follows:

The Points System

Worldwide level Cap of 140,000 for each fiscal year (including spouses and children)
Point Allocation Age (10 points maximum)
 Between 0 and 17 May not submit an application
  Between 18 and 21 6 points
 Between 22 and 25 8 points
 Between 26 and 30 10 points
 Between 31 and 35 8 points
 Between 36 and 40 6 points
 Between 41 and 45 4 points
 Between 46 and 50 2 points
  51 or older 0 points
Point Allocation Formal education (13 points maximum)
U.S. or Foreign High School Degree 1 point
Foreign Bachelor’s Degree 5 points
U.S. Bachelor’s Degree 6 points
Foreign Master’s Degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) 7 points
U.S. STEM Master’s Degree 8 points
Foreign Professional Degree or Doctoral STEM 10 points
U.S. Professional Degree or Doctoral STEM 13 points
Point Allocation

 

English language proficiency  (12 points maximum)
1st – 5th deciles 0 points
6th – 7th deciles 6 points
8th decile 10 points
9th decile 11 points
10th decile 12 points
Point Allocation Extraordinary achievement  (40 points maximum)
Nobel Laureate or comparable recognition 25 points
Individual Olympic medal or first place in a comparable international sporting event 15 points
Point Allocation Job offer/highly compensated employment (13 points maximum)
Annual salary offered is at least 150% but less than 200% of the median household income in the state of employment 5 points
Annual salary offered is at least 200 % but less than 300% of the median household income in the state of employment 8 points
Annual salary offered is at least 300% of the median household income in the state of employment 13 points
Point Allocation Investment and active management of new enterprise (12 points maximum)
Investment of at least $1.35 million but less than $1.8 million in a U.S. New Commercial Enterprise (NCE); maintain the investment for three years and play active role in managing the NCE as primary occupation 6 points
Investment of at least $1.8 million in a U.S. NCE; maintain the investment for three years and play active role in managing the NCE as primary occupation 12 points
Point Allocation Valid (pre-existing) offer of admission under family preference category 2 points

There is a very clear message behind these point distributions; the system prioritizes individuals that are already educated to US levels, trained in a STEM field, are compensated, fluent in English, and young.

The Challenges of Moving Away from
Demand-Driven Immigration

  • The proposed system would be a major shift away from the current demand-driven model that drives the American employment-based immigration system. The current system allows for employers to choose the workers they desire based on government regulations. Employers are able to petition for a foreign worker through a choice of visa preference categories. Given that they are related to employer’s labor needs, demand-driven immigration systems have been effective at growing the economy and creating competition.
  • The proposed points system would mean that potential immigrants are valued as far as their human-capital attributes – that is to say their skills, knowledge, and experience – goes, which would bring with it an assumed ability to be economically valuable.
  • There are some risks associated with making the change to a human-capital model. While selective immigration methods like a points-based system is an effective way to attract educated individuals, there’s no guarantee that it would improve national economic competitiveness. Research shows that even if an immigration system increases the number of skilled immigrants, there is no benefit to the economy if they are unable to find a job that matches their skills.
  • Australia and Canada are both using points-based systems to choose economic migrants. Research has shown with both cases that qualified immigrants that are chosen through these systems typically have trouble finding and maintaining jobs in their profession. Basically they aren’t able to make the most of their skills.
  • As has been documented in Canada, a human-capital points system can’t accurately assess the intangible qualities such as the social adaptability or the emotional intelligence of a person. This means that it might not match the Canadian market needs and values.
  • The RAISE Act points system would be a hybrid system that combines point-and-demand-driven models as it assigns points based on employment offers, but these points will only be applicable to high-paying occupations. This means that the proposed system would assume only STEM occupations have a labor shortage. This isn’t the case as seen in the direct care industry where people provide care to the elderly and disabled. It’s expected that these industries are going to face labor shortages in the near future.

Who Gets Forgotten by the
Proposed Points System of the RAISE Act?

  • The system of the RAISE Act is different from S.744 in that it doesn’t have a dedicated path less skilled immigrants can follow. These immigrants are an important part of the “essential economy”; which includes food and hospitality industries, construction, elder care, agriculture, and manufacturing. The RAISE Act could be harmful to these industries by ignoring less skilled immigrants.
  • As well as the potential negative impact on economic competitiveness, the RAISE points system raises concerns about the potential for a gender bias. The system prioritizes applicants that have STEM degrees, and women are underrepresented in STEM fields. This is an issue that affects more than just the United States and leaves female immigrants with less employment opportunities. There are some countries where women are denied access to the same education and work opportunities as men and would therefore be excluded from such a channel.
  • Even when adhering to a purely economic rationale that the system is built on, the potential contribution of women working in the care industry isn’t valued as it should be. Immigrant women that work in the domestic sphere help to maintain the current workforce, are raising the future workforce, caring for the sick and elderly, and playing a critical role in well-being. They have longstanding contributions to the economy that should be considered.
  • The proposed system downplays the family unit. While it’s shown that families expedite social and economic incorporations of immigrants, a points system doesn’t allocate points for family ties. It’s been shown that families provide important resources for immigrants – such as employment opportunities, credit, and support. As well as not allocating points for family ties, the RAISE Act proposes eliminating current categories for family-sponsored immigration. The bill would specifically eliminate family sponsorship outside of minor children and spouses of US citizens and lawful permanent residents.
  • Assigning points based on age will also raise concerns over the moral and practical age discrimination implications. The United States has become a country known around the world for the principles of inclusion and protecting civil rights, as well as fighting all forms of discrimination. However, the bill would appear to go against the values that are built into domestic policy. Prioritizing younger immigrants over older ones means that older people who have more experience and wisdom is against American core values.
  • The proposed points system could also cause a bias against certain nationalities, which could mean excluding immigrants from certain countries that have a lower degree of human capital valued by the system. The Diversity visa aspect that has been a part of the American immigration system for over 20 years would be eliminated with the bill.

The Green Card Lottery (Diversity Visa Lottery) is still available so you can apply today for the 2018 (DV-2020) program directly on US GREEN CARD OFFICE