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Immigration Reform Proposes Merit-based System of Preferences

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on May 16, 2013

Last month, the U.S. Senate put forward a bipartisan legislative proposal entitled, “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” which would provide millions of undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship in this country.

What is less well-known about the bill is that it would give significant preferences to better-educated and better-trained workers in the U.S. visa process, opening up more opportunities for them under both new and established programs for skilled or gifted professionals.

The proposed bill’s new “merit-based” system would definitely favor those immigrants with skills in the so-called “STEM” disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Those who have attended college and/or have acquired on the job training skills would also be a leg up in the visa and citizenship process.

Under current law, the best method of getting a green card for permanent residence status is to be sponsored by an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen. Under the new bill, more green cards would be awarded to immigrants based on a “points” system that awards points to applicants based on their level of education, employment experience, business entrepreneurship, and English language proficiency, as well as family ties.

For example, foreigners with Ph.D. degrees would reportedly score 15 points, those with full-time job experience in the U.S. would score 10 points, and those who speak or write in fluent English could score another 10 points. The merit-based visas would then be awarded to those immigrants who scored the greatest number of points in the merit system.

Supporters of the legislative proposal say that such an approach would align the U.S. with other nations, such as Canada and Australia, that have successfully used a merit-based system for attracting highly skilled and educated workers.

Critics of the legislative proposal suggest that the U.S. will need more lower paid, low-skilled workers who care for the elderly, prepare food, and work in blue-collar jobs. The National Immigration Law Center has noted that the points system favors people who have had access to education and work in the professional sector, leaving lower-wage workers with fewer skills out in the cold.

However, both commercial trade groups and organized labor have publicly supported the expanded guest worker provisions of the new bill, as well as the increases in visa slots for non-immigrant H-1B visas for specialty occupations, which were entirely snapped up within the first week of being opened to the public this year.

If your business needs foreign workers to fill specific needs, and you are not sure how to sponsor those workers, or if you just need legal assistance with any business immigration issue, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (847) 564-0712 for an appointment to speak with an experienced and qualified immigration lawyer. You can also check out our immigration law Website for more information about how we might assist you.