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Merit-Based Immigration: Here’s What You Need to Know

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on June 07, 2019

The Trump Administration, through Jared Kushner, recently proposed a new immigration bill to Congress that would completely change the U.S. immigration system by favoring skills-based applicants over family-based immigration. Under the proposal, the U.S. would move to a merit-based immigration system similar to what exists in Australia and Canada. While the bill was proposed to Congress, it is unlikely that it would pass as the Democrats are strongly opposed to it.

What Is Merit-Based Immigration?

Merit-based immigration is a system in which applicants who have advanced degrees or special skills are favored over those who do not. In Canada and Australia, for example, the countries use a web-based screening tool that scores would-be applicants. People are able to see if they are likely to qualify online before they apply. People who do not pass the screening or possess the needed skills cannot proceed. This has helped the countries avoid the substantial immigration backlog that the U.S. has to deal with.

What Changes Would the Proposal Make?

Currently, most immigrants who come to the U.S. do so through the family immigration program. The proposal would change that and instead allow more immigrants with special skills to come than people who are reunifying with relatives. Under the proposal, employment-based visas would be increased from an annual cap of 140,000 to 600,000. The proposal would also end the visa lottery program and would use a similar point system as those that are used in Canada and Australia.

Merit-based immigration would be more focused on economics. Proponents of the system argue that it would allow immigrants into the country who would be much likelier to be productive and to contribute to the economy. The family reunification system that the U.S. currently has favors the elderly and the young, neither of which are able to contribute very much to the economy.

However, the proposed changes are unlikely to pass. The Democrats are strongly against the proposed bill because it does not include any protections for the DACA recipients. Democrats are also against the proposed bill because it contains funding for Trump’s border wall. This makes it unlikely for the bill to pass in the House. Since Trump is unlikely to sign any legislation that includes protections for DACA recipients, it is also unlikely that a different immigration reform bill will be passed in the upcoming year.