Remodeling Legal Immigration – Everything You Should Know About The RAISE Act

Remodeling Legal Immigration – Everything You Should Know About The RAISE Act

It is no secret that under the current administration, immigration is a hot topic and designated as one of the priorities for change during the next four years. Not surprisingly, at the beginning of this month, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia) introduced a bill that would radically change the current immigration system. The proposed bill, “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act” or “RAISE Act,” aims to significantly decrease legal immigration to America. The bill proposes changes to our “outdated” system with the purpose of protecting “our workers, our taxpayers, and our economy.”[1] The RAISE Act intends to substitute the current immigration system with a “merit-based system,” which:

  • Replaces the current permanent employment-visa framework
  • Eliminates the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
  • Changes the family-sponsored immigration priorities
  • Limits permanent resident status for refugees, and
  • Reduces overall immigration numbers


From replacing all the permanent employment-visas with a point system that would assess applicants on different categories to completely eliminating the popular Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which allocates around 50,000 visas per year, this new system would significantly reduce immigration to the U.S.[2] Other changes included in the RAISE Act are changing family-sponsored priorities only to spouses and minors, excluding parents and redefining the age of what is considered a minor, from 21 to 18. Also, the Act would slash the limit on the number of refugees who may be admitted to from 110,000 to 50,000.[3]

This new merit system would screen applicants based on their skills using a point system considering different factors, such as: education and English-language ability. Applicants would require scoring at least 30 points of the 100-point scale system in order to immigrate to the U.S. Using a point system would completely change the entire current immigration process, present a challenge to future applicants who do not meet the expected standards, and ultimately redefine our immigration system.

Though a merit-based immigration system to help control immigration is a fairly new idea in the U.S., other countries have used it for years. In particular, since 1967, Canada has used a point-based system that controls immigration while promoting the economy and a multicultural [4]society. Canada was the first country to use a point system to admit immigrants; it became increasingly popular over the years and served as a model for other countries such as the U.K. and Australia. It is worth highlighting that this system focuses on what immigrants can contribute to the economy based on their skills, which is an appealing factor for many countries. In the past, President Trump has praised this system and perhaps this move can be perceived as an emulation of sorts of Canada’s merit-based immigration system. For instance, similar to Canada, the proposed system rewards education, English-language ability, age, high-paying job offers, past and current achievements, and entrepreneurial initiative. And while the points attributed to each category might be different, in principle they are focusing on similar factors to control immigration.

However, while this bill might have been inspired by our neighbor’s merit-based system, the Republican-backed proposal differs in certain aspects. For example, the RAISE Act aims to replace all employment-visa based categories, including the EB-5 program, with a point system. The EB-5 program was created with the purpose of stimulating the economy and creating jobs; since its creation, it has become one of the most popular residency programs in the world. USCIS estimates that in the last five years, at least $8.7 billion have been invested in the U.S., 35,150 jobs have been created and 10,000 green cards have been issued through this program.[5] Despite all the positive factors that the EB-5 program encompasses for our economy, this bill might signal future changes to the program. Conversely, Canada considers investment-based permanent resident permits separate from skilled worker immigration. In other words, in Canada, business immigrants are not assessed on a point system.

While this bill might emulate the Canadian merit system to a point, it also incorporates different ideas that are expected to decrease the immigration numbers and boost our economy. Below is a comparison of the proposed bill to the current merit-based system used in Canada:

United States’ RAISE ACT[6]

Canada’s Point Based Immigration System[7]

·      100-point based scale requiring at least 30 points to be eligible to immigrate to the United States.

·      100-point based scale requiring at least 67 points to be eligible to immigrate to Canada.

·      Applicants would receive points based on categories such as: education (preference given to degrees received in the States), English-language ability, age (the younger the applicant, the more points awarded), high-paying job offers, past and current achievements (Nobel prize, Olympic medal), and entrepreneurial initiative (Investing $1.35 million or $1.8 million in the U.S. economy).

·      Applicants are assessed based on the following categories: language skills (English and French), education, work experience, age (the younger the applicant, the more points awarded), current job offer from Canadian employer, and adaptability.

·      Eliminates the Diversity Visa Program.

·      Changes the EB-5 program framework by including the $1,350,000 and $1,800,000 investments under the point-based system. Requiring investors to maintain the investment for at least three years and actively managing it.

·      Business immigrants are not assessed on a point system. Canada’s provinces have their own Nomination Programs for business immigration programs.



·      Changes the family-sponsored immigration priorities by eliminating parents as immediate family members eligible for a green card, only allowing spouses and minors to be sponsored.

·      Redefines the age of what is considered as a minor child from under 21 to under 18.

·      Canadian citizens and permanent residents are eligible to sponsor parents and grandparents to become permanent residents.

·      Canada defines a minor as under 19, but is expected to change it in the next months to under 22.

·      Limits permanent resident status for refugees to 50,000 a year.

·      Canada is known for having a friendly refugee policy and hopes to increase global refugee resettlement; last year Canada admitted 46,700 refugees.

Although the proposed bill attempts to be justified as a means to boost our economy, its foundation is to curtail immigration and, naturally, is receiving mixed reactions. Despite being a Republican-backed policy and having President’s Trump endorsement, the RAISE Act has been opposed by other Republican Senators, Immigrant rights groups, and Democrats. The general opinion is that the bill is not likely to pass due to failure to create traction. However, if the bill were to pass, its proposed effective date will be the first day of the first fiscal year that starts after the date of enactment.


To inquire about professional, credible and comprehensive concierge business immigration services, as well as a variety of ancillary services, all of which are designed to specifically address USCIS’s concerns, contact e-Council Inc. at or 1-866-724-0085

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[4] Note that Canada is considered to be a “multicultural” country whereas the U.S. is perceived as more of a cultural “melting pot”.