Our Opinion on the RAISE Act

Yesterday, Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue announced a revised version of the RAISE Act. The bill primarily aims to reduce legal immigration to United States and also recommends converting existing employer/family sponsored based system to point based system (one similar to other developed countries such as Canada and Australia). The bill also proposes eliminating diversity based green cards allocation and reducing refugees and family based immigration.

Specifically, on employment based category, the bill proposes awarding points to applicants based on their age, educational qualifications, English language skills, offered salary relative to state median household income and extraordinary achievements (if any). The bill does not propose any country cap limits within employment based category and green card application can be filed directly by the beneficiary and the applicant does not have to rely on employer to file one. The process also eliminates labor certification process but ensures employers attest, the hiring of foreign worker will not displace US worker. There are no sub categories within employment based (such as EB1, EB2 etc.) and total green cards for this category holds at the current level of 140,000.

The bill has definitely few good things specially on lines of ignoring country caps, giving green cards filing ability in hands of beneficiary and putting more emphasis on merits. However, the biggest drawback of the bill (in its current form) is that it does not propose a clear pathway for the high-skilled workers who have been waiting for a decade or more for their green card. The average age of those high-skilled immigrants stuck in green card backlog may be around 35-40. During interaction with media, David Perdue did suggest giving extra points for experience, however that won’t help where applicant loses 4-6 points on age and gains only a few with 10+ years of legal stay in the country. Further, it will be extremely unfair to these high-skilled immigrants who followed all the rules with the existing system, have been waiting for over a decade and now have to start afresh with the new system and compete with fresh graduates. Lastly, removal of AC21, could result in partial abuse by few outsourcing firms where they may replace experienced and skilled workers with cheap labor every 3 to 6 years.

SIIA.US, a voice of more than million high skilled immigrants stuck in green card backlog across the country, reviewed the bill thoroughly and evaluated the possible impact on high-skilled immigrants. We sincerely thank the senators for acknowledging the demerits of existing unfair and discriminatory green card allocation process and proposing a legislation which attempts to bring more fairness in green card allocation, would reduce employer abuse and retain talent. However, we could fully support such legislation only if it provides a fair and accelerated pathway to clear the existing backlog of those who are waiting in a line since over a decade, before the new system is implemented. We’ll engage with the offices of the senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue to add amendments to the bill which resolves the existing green card backlog in the bill alleviating pain of legal high-skilled immigrants and their families. Until such amendments are added, our focus remains on HR-392 / S-281 aiming to remove per country caps in employment based categories.