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Legislation Released on Reducing Legal Immigration in the US

On August 2, President Trump held an event at the White House to announce the release of a revised version of the “Reforming American immigration for a Strong Economy Act.”  Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Purdue (R-GA) accompanied the President at the event.  The two Senators authored the bill, known as the RAISE Act, which they first introduced in the Senate as S. 354 on February 13 of this year.

The revised legislation would significantly change current immigration policy and reduce intended the number of immigrants into the U.S. to 500,000 people.  The reduction would result in approximately half the number of individuals immigrating to the U.S. on an annual basis.

The RAISE Act would reduce the number of immigrants through several different policy changes.  First, the legislation would limit the annual admission of refugees to 50,000 individuals in a fiscal year. The bill would also restrict those immigrants eligible for family-sponsored priority status to spouses and children and no longer parents of the U.S. citizen.  It would also limit the number of family-sponsored immigrants to 88,000 each fiscal year.  The RAISE Act would also replace the current employment-based immigration category with a points-based system, with no more than 140,000 visas issued annually.

The points-based system would be similar to the current Canadian merit-based policy in which applicants are designated points in several categories.  The total number of points of an applicant is based on degrees of education, proficiency in English, achievements and job offers combined with the level of salary. In his speech before a joint session of Congress earlier this year, President Trump highlighted the Canadian system. While the proposal has the backing of the White House, most Senate Democrats and some Republicans oppose scaling back the number of immigrants currently coming to the U.S.  It is yet to be seen where the bill will go from here.

How this will impact mobility:  Changing the current immigration policy of the U.S. and reducing the number of green cards would have a dramatic impact on the ability of companies to hire foreign workers.  The exact impact on high-skilled immigration is less clear as the policy is intended to shift in favor from low-skilled to more high-skilled immigration.

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