*Practice limited to federal immigration law. Licensed in NY, MA, but not in CA.

Trump’s Merit-based Immigration System

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (INA), American immigration policy has largely been based on a complex combination of family connections and work skills. For family-based immigrants, this means that they may be able to obtain a green card directly through a close relative or through the family preference system. Despite the fact that this has been long-standing policy, President Donald Trump has expressed serious reservations about this type of system. While President Trump’s actual policy proposals are still vague, he has stated a clear preference to shift the U.S. to a “merit-based” immigration system.

The Recent History of ‘Merit-Based’ Immigration Reform

President Trump is far from the first major political figure to propose a transition to a merit-based immigration system. Indeed, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which was ultimately left to die on the floor of the United States Senate, contained many merit-based reforms. Whether or not President Trump would bring back the merit-based aspects of the bill, or if he would push our country towards a system resembling that of Canada, which has a merit-based system that has been previously been praised by President Trump, is unknown. Though, we can make some general assessments as to how such a system would operate.

Under Merit-Based Immigration, Applicants Would Be Assigned a ‘Score’

Under the current Canadian system, and in the proposed 2007 American reform, a ‘points-based system’ was used to ‘score’ prospective immigrants. Under both of these systems, high-scoring applicants are awarded priority admission status. There are many different specific possible system designs, and applicants may be awarded points for a wide variety of reasons, including:

  • Educational background;
  • Job skills and employment background;
  • Ability to make a financial contribution;
  • English language proficiency; and
  • Other favorable attributes.  

Regardless, this type of reform would differ starkly from our current system, which provides a clear family-based preference. Of course, there is also the possibility that the U.S. could create a hybrid system. In fact, some proposals currently call for the U.S. to shift to a merit-based system that awards substantial points to applicants who have relatives who are American citizens.  

Does Donald Trump Have Credibility on Immigration Reform?

When discussing possible reform to a merit-based system, we must also address President Trump’s past statements and positions regarding immigrants and immigration. He has said many offensive and outright false things about immigrants. This is important because many critics have noted the fact that the Trump Administration may try to push merit-based immigration reform simply as a ploy to restrict immigration. For example, currently there is a bill in the U.S. Senate, supported by long-time Trump-ally and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that shifts the U.S. to a ‘merit-based’ system by simply cutting back on family immigration.

Do You Need Immigration Assistance?

Our immigration lawyer in Los Angeless can help. At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we proudly represent immigrants and their families. To learn more about what we can do for you, please reach out to our team today by calling us at (213) 262-2000. From our office in Los Angeles, we serve communities throughout Southern California, including Glendale, Pasadena and Torrance.

Josh Goldstein
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