Proposed Changes to Family-Based Immigration Under President Trump: Would Your Family Be Affected?

March 5, 2018

President Trump has communicated his desire to cut down on family-based immigration, or what he calls "chain migration,” a longstanding pillar of the American immigration system that enables citizens and permanent residents to bring their relatives to the United States.

This is timely because media outlets have recently reported on how the parents of Melania Trump might have immigrated to the United States. It is surmised that Viktor and Amalija Knavs may have been sponsored by their U.S. citizen daughter as an immediate relative, or perhaps immigrated with an employer-based sponsor. Others believe that the couple may have won the green card lottery, or might have made a significant investment in the United States to qualify for the entrepreneurial EB5 investor program. It is most likely, however, that the Knavs were sponsored for U.S. permanent residence by their daughter as immediate relatives. Current reports indicate that the Knavs are awaiting their final Oath Ceremony and will soon be sworn in as U.S. citizens.

These facts are of interest due to the recent endorsement by President Trump of the “RAISE Act” (Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy Act), which severely restricts and reduces the level of legal immigrants to the United States, and particularly makes dramatic reduction to the family-based immigrant category. Introduced last summer by Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue, and backed by President Trump, the RAISE Act would permit only the spouse and minor children of U.S. citizens eligibility for permanent residence status. Further, the definition of ‘son’ and ‘daughter’ under the RAISE Act would be reduced from the age of 21 to 18. In addition, the following relatives would lose eligibility for U.S. permanent residence status and sponsorship:

  • Relatives of U.S. citizens – Parents, unmarried sons and daughters age 18 or older (married sons and daughters and siblings of lawful permanent residents are currently ineligible for permanent residence sponsorship);
  • Relatives of Lawful Permanent Residents – Unmarried sons and daughters age 18 and older (married sons and daughters and siblings of lawful permanent residents are not eligible currently for sponsorship for lawful permanent residence).

While it is unclear whether the RAISE Act will ultimately pass, the prudent practitioner would best advise his or her clients to move forward with sponsorship of relatives now and not wait until it might be too late.

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