On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, President Trump endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at slashing legal immigration levels, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act. This bill is a modified version of a bill senators Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) first introduced in April to cut immigration by half from the current level of more than 1 million green cards per year. To achieve this reduction and create what they call a “merit-based system,” Cotton and Perdue are taking aim at green cards for extended family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, limiting such avenues for grown children and siblings. Minor children and spouses would still be eligible to apply for green cards. The highlights of the Senators’ bill propose to end the visa diversity lottery that awards 50,000 green cards a year, to areas in the world that traditionally do not have as many immigrants to the United States. The bill also caps refugee levels at 50,000 per year. Under the bill, the proposed immigration system would award points to green card applicants based on such factors as English ability, education levels and job skills. The senators said the proposal is modeled after immigration programs in Canada and Australia. However, the bill's prospects are dim in the Senate where Republicans hold a narrow majority. The legislation is expected to face fierce resistance from congressional Democrats, immigrant rights groups and business leaders, as well as, some moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations. Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute, wrote in a blog that the bill "would do nothing to boost skilled immigration and it will only increase the proportion of employment-based green cards by cutting other green cards. Saying otherwise is grossly deceptive marketing."
On April 17, 2017 an immigration policy memorandum was issued by the Service adopting “Matter of O-A- Inc.,” a copy of the memo can be found here, as a guidepost for USCIS decisions going forward. This case was focused on whether, at the time a provisional certificate is issued, a beneficiary has completed all substantive requirements to earn the degree and the university or college has approved the degree. In this case, the beneficiary’s provisional certificate was issued May 17, 2006, but she did not receive her formal diploma until March 30, 2007, according to the decision. The priority date was Oct. 23, 2014. The director concluded that the beneficiary fell short of the five-year requirement because she accrued four years and eight months of qualifying experience between the diploma date and the priority date, but the agency said that, based on the evidence in the record, the issuance of the provisional certificate conferred the foreign equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. And the agency found that she had obtained at least five years of qualifying post-baccalaureate experience. It was determined that the provisional certificate, together with the beneficiary’s statement of marks, showed that she had completed all the substantive requirements for her degree and that the university approved her degree. As such, the agency determined that the petitioner had shown that the beneficiary met the minimum education and experience requirements of the labor certification and EB-2 classification and sustained the appeal. Going forward, the Service has been directed to conduct case-specific analysis to determine whether a beneficiary who received a provisional certificate had completed all requirements to earn the degree and that the school had approved the degree at the time the certificate was issued. This is good news for those beneficiary who get their provisional certificates much earlier [...]