By Brittany M. Milliasseau & Nancy E. Miller
If you’ve watched the news, browsed a media website, perused a newspaper, or scrolled through social media newsfeeds in the last few days, chances are that you’ve heard about a new immigration bill recently introduced to Congress. If so far you haven’t paid too much attention to the proposals and nuances of the bill, it is now the time to listen and take appropriate action as the potential legislation could seriously impact you and your noncitizen friends and family members.
On Wednesday, August 2, President Trump appeared at the White House along with two U.S. senators to reveal the “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act,” or the “RAISE” Act. The Act, which is aimed at reducing legal immigration by 50% within the next ten years, proposes significant cuts to family-based immigration and the refugee program. In addition, the Act seeks to implement a skills/merit-based point system for employment-based immigration.
In regards to family-based immigration, the proposed legislation eliminates all family-based immigration categories except for spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. Currently, as the law stands, U.S. citizens may petition their noncitizen spouses, parents (if the U.S. citizen is over 21 years old), and children under the age of 21 as immediate relatives, providing the noncitizen with immediate visa availability. U.S. citizens may also petition their siblings as “non-immediate” relatives who are subject to limited visa availability. The law also currently allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition their adult children. However, under the proposed regulation, adult U.S. citizens would no longer be able to petition their noncitizen parents or siblings for a green card. Further, U.S. citizens would no longer be permitted to petition their adult children and lawful permanent residents would no longer be permitted to sponsor their unmarried adult children. It should be noted that while the bill restricts adult U.S. citizens from petitioning their parents, it does create a nonimmigrant classification for parents of U.S. citizens which is rather restrictive. Parents of U.S. citizens would not be eligible for work authorization or public benefits and their adult child would be responsible for arranging for health insurance coverage prior to visa issuance.
While it is uncertain whether this proposed legislation will actually become law, the clock on various avenues for immigrating family is ticking. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who want to bring their adult children, siblings, or parents to the U.S. should act now. Those who are eligible to naturalize should do so in order to be able to bring family
members here while they still can. Don’t delay – consult with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney as soon as possible to discuss family-based immigration options which may no longer be available in the near future.
The allocation of the 140,000 employment-based green cards issued annually was also addressed in the recent immigration bill. If the RAISE Act passes, the current employment-based immigration categories will be replaced with a skills/merit-based system whereby applications will be evaluated and ranked pursuant to a number of factors including English language proficiency, age, educational level, investment in a commercial U.S. enterprise, and achievements such as an Olympic medal or Nobel Prize. If you believe you may be qualified for an employment-based petition such as a petition for an individual of extraordinary ability, multinational manager/executive, or an outstanding professor/researcher, you or your employer should consult with competent immigration counsel to discuss your options before a highly competitive merit-based system is implemented.
Some additional changes outlined in the RAISE Act include the total elimination of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or the “green card lottery” which currently awards 50,000 green cards to noncitizens from countries with low rates of immigration, as well as the reduction of the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. to 50,000 per year.
If the RAISE Act is passed by Congress, the President has indicated he will sign it. It will become law. If it does not, the bill gives a clear indication of what Congress intends for the future of immigration in the United States. In the past, when immigration laws changed, the old law was “grandfathered” to allow those who had filed before the change to still take advantage of the old law. There is no reason to believe that will not still be the case. But to be grandfathered, you have to have an existing petition. Anyone who has any interest in reuniting their family in the U.S. or who is thinking of immigrating through employment should contact a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer now. The clock is ticking.