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The R.A.I.S.E. Act - A Proposed "Points-Based" Immigration System

Achieving immigration reform at the congressional level is extremely difficult. As such, most action geared towards immigration reform has been done via Executive Order. President Trump has long expressed his interests in reforming our immigration policies to a more merit-based system. With the signing of his Executive Order earlier this year, he tasked four federal agencies with the review and recommendation of changes pertaining to employment-based worker programs. The ultimate stated goals were: to prevent fraud and abuse and to safeguard American jobs.

Recently, President Trump voiced his support of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy bill, better known as the RAISE Act. The bill seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to eliminate the diversity immigrant visa program and place a 50,000 cap on refugee admissions. The bill's most significant move is to prioritize immigrants based on the skills they bring to the United States.

In a press release from the White House on August 2nd, President Trump stated that "just 1 out of every 15 immigrants to the United States come here because of their skills." To change this, the RAISE Act aims to reduce overall immigration numbers to limit low-skilled and unskilled labor entering the U.S. In order to do so, the RAISE Act prioritizes immediate family members (spouses and minor children) and eliminates preferences for extended family members and adult children (over the age of 21). The RAISE Act also purports to establish a nonimmigrant alien W-visa for parents of an adult U.S. citizen.

Most notably, RAISE aims to override the current employment-based system by adopting a merits-based immigration system that rewards individuals based on their education, English-language ability, job prospects, past achievements and entrepreneurial initiative. The points-based system, similar to the ones implemented in Canada and Australia, will prioritize high-skill, among other factors.

A breakdown of the points system is as follows:


≤17 (0 pts) 

18-21 (6 pts) 

22-25 (8 pts) 

26-30 (10 pts)

31-35 (8 pts) 

36-40 (6 pts) 

41-45 (4 pts) 

46-50 (2 pts)

≥51 (0 pts) 

Age: Education:

U.S. or foreign high school degree (1 pt)

Foreign bachelor's degree (5 pts)

U.S. bachelor's degree (6 pts)

Foreign STEM* master's degree (7 pts)

U.S. STEM master's degree (8 pts)

Foreign STEM doctorate or professional degree (10 pts)

U.S. STEM doctorate or professional degree (13 pts)

*Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Extraordinary Achievement:

Nobel Laureates or scholars of comparable acclaim (25 points)

Winners of Individual Medals in the Olympics (or athletes of comparable acclaim) (15 points)

Job Prospects/Offered Salary:

No job offer or salary offered is less than $77,900 (0 pts)

Salary offered is 150% of median household income (or at least $77,900) (5 pts)

Salary offered is 200% of the median household income (or at least $103,900) (8 pts)

Salary offered is 300% of the median household income (or at least $155,800) (13 pts)

Investment in, and management of, New Commercial Initiative (Entrepreneurial initiative):

No plans to invest, or investing less than $1,350,000 (0 pts)

Plans to invest at least $1,350,000 (6 pts)

Plans to invest at least $1,800,000 (12 pts)

Specifically, a foreign national needs at least 30 points to be eligible to apply for immigration to the United States. Furthermore, applicants with the highest number of points would be pushed to the front of the line to receive visas. Although the bill is unlikely to pass Congress in the near future, still, it is an interesting to see how one would fare under the proposed points system.



Richard M. Wilner

Founding Partner

Richard M. Wilner is a founding member of Wilner & O'Reilly, APLC and is Board Certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. He is admitted to practice law in the State of California and before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California, the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.


Nancy Vo


Nancy Vo is currently an Associate Attorney at Wilner & O'Reilly. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Whittier Law School. While at Whittier, she was an editor on Whittier Law Review, had an article published in 2015, and earned a CALI award in Legal Writing. Ms. Vo earned a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and Public Law from the University of California, San Diego.

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