Last month President Donald Trump announced his desire to implement a new merit-based immigration system.
He did not put forward a detailed proposal, but instead described his proposal in broad strokes. The president emphasized that his goal is to change the make-up of U.S. immigrants, envisioning a points system that would provide more green cards to highly skilled, highly educated and younger immigrants, and reducing immigration based on family relationships.
While he did not mention many specifics, the president’s proposal bears a striking similarity to the RAISE Act, an immigration bill introduced into the Senate in 2017 by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, and David Perdue, R-Geaorgia. Trump praised the RAISE Act when it was initially introduced in the Senate, but the bill died in Congress.
The RAISE Act would have reduced total U.S. immigration by approximately half and included a points-based permanent immigration system which placed high numeric values on advanced education and extraordinary achievement.
According to the system proposed in the RAISE Act, although an immigrant would score more points with a U.S. job offer, U.S. employers would not be able to sponsor new hires or existing employees for green cards. The point value would be the ultimate determinant in whether a person would be able to secure permanent residence in the U.S.
In light of the president’s emphasis on increasing immigration of highly skilled workers, one might assume that his plan envisions higher numbers of temporary work visas for educated and highly skilled foreign nationals. However, neither the president’s recent proposal nor the RAISE Act included any discussion of temporary work visas such as H-1B or L-1 visas.
Further, the president laid out his proposal as just that: a proposal. The changes he would like to make are significant and such a radical departure from current law that most of them would have to be implemented in new immigration legislation. This is not likely to occur anytime soon as it would require bipartisan consensus.
In light of the fact that Congress would need to pass new immigration legislation to implement the president’s immigration vision, recruiters and hiring managers who rely on foreign talent to fill open requisitions should not expect to see increases to the H-1B visa numbers in the near term.
Further, since Trump has taken office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denials and requests for additional evidence in H-1B visa cases have risen significantly, reflecting the president’s desire to protect the American workforce, as spelled out in his April 2017 Executive Order, “Buy American, Hire American.”
Employers sponsoring H-1B visas should be prepared for the possibility of longer processing times between filing and ultimate approval of petitions, and should budget for potential additional legal fees.