RAISE Act Immigration Visa, Visa Holder Public Benefit Limits Create Potential Health Industry Concerns

Immigration law changes proposed in the newly revised version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act   (RAISE Act) reintroduced yesterday (August 2, 2017) seek significant changes in the foreign workers granted United States (U.S.) work visas and the public benefit eligibility of work and other visa holders in the U.S. that could have significant impacts on health care providers and other health industry organizations.

Backed by President Trump, Senate Co-Sponsor Tom Cotton said the the RAISE Act seeks to refocus U.S. legal immigration system to promote two main goals:

  1. Helping American workers get a decent pay raise and have a higher standard of living; and
  2. Helping promote economic growth to make America more competitive in the world.

The promote these Goals, the RAISE Act would overhaul the procedures that the U.S. uses to pick foreign immigrants granted certain U.S. work and other visas  as well as reform rules and limits for granting work, refugee and family member visas and limit their eligibility for public benefits.

The centerpiece of the RAISE Act’s proposed reform is replacement of the current U.S. permanent employment visa and lottery visa programs with a new “merit based” selection process that would rely upon a “skills-based points system” created under the Act to determine the foreign workers eligible to receive work visas. As proposed under RAISE Act, the U.S. would issue a maximum of 140,000 employment-based visas annually. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service would select the applicants invited to file full application and undergo security vetting twice a year from a pool of potential immigrants based on their point score ranking under the new skills-based point system. The new skills-based points system would prioritize workers for visa eligibility based applicants’ relative scores determined based on the English language ability, education, age and other “predictors of immigrant success and economic contribution” listed in the RAISE Act. For more details, see here.

Beyond replacing the current employment visa and lottery visa programs, the RAISE Act also would impose new limits on the number of visas granted, tighten the eligibility rules and requirements for granting visas to noncitizen family members of U.S. citizens and legal residents and foreign workers and refugees and exclude holders of these visas from eligibility for government benefits.

In addition to reforming the visa selection process, the RAISE Act also includes reforms intended to protect U.S. taxpayers against the cost of providing public benefits for visa holders. The REACH Act provides that immigrant households arriving through the skills-based points system are not eligible for federal means tested benefits for a period of 5 years.  It also generally would restrict public benefit eligibility for immigrants in the U.S. on family or parent visas and require among other things, that adult citizens and legal residents sponsoring a newly created parental visa must provide health insurance coverage at no cost to the parent and other required support.  Section 6 conditions naturalization on the sponsors of an immigrant fulfilling their obligation to reimburse the federal government for benefits used by the immigrant, as required under current law.

The RAISE Act’s proposed modifications to the work and other visa eligibility and selection process and imposition of restrictions on public benefit eligibility of visa holders are likely to have multiple implications for health care providers and other health industry organizations.  Beyond potential implications on the recruitment and availability foreign workers to fulfill various positions, the proposed reforms are likely to change the mix and characteristics of foreign workers eligible to obtain visas to work in the United States, the predictability and timing of the selection of workers, foreign workers’ compensation, employer-provided and government provided benefit needs and and expectation, and other recruitment, compensation and other requirements and expectations of foreign workers and their families.

Meanwhile, the proposed limits on public benefits for visa holders contained in the RAISE Act also are likely to impact the availability, reliability, predictability and source of payment for health care or other services health care and other agencies provide to immigrant populations and raise questions about how the proposed public benefit reforms will interact with emergency assessment and treatment mandates like the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), federal and state English as a Second Language and other nondiscrimination and cultural diversity requirements that commonly trigger special responsibilities or risks relative to treatment or other interactions involving immigrants in the U.S.

Furthermore, it also remains to be seen how consideration under the skills-based points system of applicants’ English language skills, education, age and other criteria will impact English-only prohibitions, employment discrimination and affirmative action, and other “linguistic and cultural diversity” laws and practices that have gained traction over the past decade, U.S. employers will want to carefully evaluate the likely implications of these and other potential workforce implications on their recruitment, hiring and workforce practices, provide any relevant input concerning potential concerns to Congress and monitor the progress of these proposed reforms as President Trump and its sponsors push for the RAISE Act’s enactment.

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: Erisa & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications. Ms. Stamer works with health industry and related businesses and their management, employee benefit plans, governments and other organizations deal with all aspects of human resources and workforce, internal controls and regulatory compliance, change management and other performance and operations management and compliance. For additional information about Ms. Stamer, see here, e-mail her here or telephone Ms. Stamer at (214) 452-8297.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advise or an admission. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The presenter and the program sponsor disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify any participant of any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.

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©2017 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ For information about republication, please contact the author directly. All other rights reserved.

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