Skill outpoints family: US wants legal immigration cut in half

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CRISPIN R. ARANDA

WAITING for the right time to file that petition for a family member?

The time has come…now, before a bill proposed by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia becomes law.

The bill—‘‘Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act’’ or RAISE—proposes to eliminate both the employment-sponsored and family-based categories except for the spouses and minor children of US citizens and green card holders.

RAISE was introduced on February 13, 2017 without much fanfare – as the “fake news media” were focused on President Trump’s Russian connection and collusion. It is now with the Senate’s judiciary committee.


In lieu of the current family and employment-based categories, a points-based migration (combining the features of the Australian and Canadian selection system) is proposed. The main criteria are the applicant’s age, level of education and English proficiency.

In case of a tie, the first criteria to determine selection are the one with the higher level of education and proficiency in English.

As of November 2016, the State Department shows a total of 4,455,274 immigrant visa applicants in the combined family- and employment-based categories. Of this number, 387,323 are from the Philippines.

The spouse and children of US citizens are not covered by the annual quota, but the same family members of lawful permanent residents are.

Even the immigrant visa category for parents of US citizens faces removal under RAISE. In its place parents may apply for a non-immigrant, temporary visitor “W” visa for a maximum period of 10 years. The initial “W” petition may be requested for five years and another five-year extension or renewal.

Highlights of RAISE
Elimination of the 50,000 diversity visa program visas.

Limit annual admission of refugees to 50,000.

Reduce family-migration quota from 226,000 to 88,000.

The number would be subject to further reduction because the new cap of 88,000 would be reduced by the number of visas issued to those paroled into the United States as well as those who overstayed – were not able to depart the US within 365 days of the bill’s enactment or immigrant visa applicants not able to apply for adjustment of status in the US as well as those who were not able to get their visas within one year of the bill becoming law.

IMMIGRANT VISA WAITING LIST, NOVEMBER 2016

Limit family-sponsorship only to the spouses and minor children of US citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs or green card holders).

Remove the IR5 category for the parent of a US citizen. In its place the parent may apply for a proposed new “W” nonimmigrant category. Maximum stay is 10 years; initial period is five years and extension for another five years.

The “W” visa holder cannot work while in the US and is not eligible for any federal, state or local benefits. The US citizen sponsor would have to be responsible for the “W” non-immigrant.

Points-based migration
Immigrant visas based on employment will be replaced by a points-based system, primarily determined by the applicant’s age, education and English proficiency. To be eligible, an applicant must have a valid job offer which would have to prove that no Americans would be deprived of the job being offered. This is akin to the current labor certification and Canada’s Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

Applicants would have to submit their profile (similar to Canada’s Express Entry and Australia’s SkillSelect). The candidate profile will stay in the pool for one year. There will be two draws (of six-month intervals) within a year.

In case of a tie, the applicant with the higher education or qualification would be selected. Second, there will be a ranking on the applicants’ English proficiency. As the bill is written, the two English language exams accepted are the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) and the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Assuming the points assigned for each criterion do not change, the result would be more highly skilled than low-skilled workers qualifying to enter the US as permanent residents. This may be an attractive feature of the bill catering to the base of Trump’s voters who are against migration of foreign workers seen as competing with Americans for entry or middle-level jobs.

However, based on a 2013 report of the Global for Center Development, the US will need more low- and middle- skilled workers than professionals.

The need for low-skill workers is confirmed by 2016 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing healthcare workers, food prepares and nursing assistants and cooks as the occupations with the highest increase in demand.

To meet the demand, US employers would have to recruit foreign workers through the H-2B temporary work visas.

In fact, last month, the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security agreed to issue an additional 15,000 H-2B visas because there are no Americans applying for or available for the non-professional jobs.

While the Trump administration favors family in running the government, the opposite is true with its immigration priorities.

For those to be affected—should the bill become law with its main provisions intact—exploring other migration options than the US (Canada is the closest and most proximate to the US) should now be a priority.

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