Family-based immigrant visas could become much more difficult to acquire if the “merit based immigration bill” proposed by Donald Trump and the Republican Party were to become law. Under the proposed merit-based visa category, an alien would accrue points based on age, education, work experience, family ties in the United States and other attributes. Alien applicants with the highest overall points in a year would be given Green Cards.
The merit-based system divides applicants evenly between two tiers:
- Tier 1: Skilled workers—those who qualify for jobs that require extensive training and education.
- Tier 2: Medium to low-skilled workers—those who qualify for jobs that require a medium to low amount of preparation.
The new merit-based immigration system is designed for those who can quickly adapt to life in the US, find well-paying jobs to support themselves and their families and pay taxes. It will weed out those who require extensive assistance with housing and language and job training as they become acclimated to life in America.
A pragmatic focus on youth and education
As part of the merit-based system, every person applying for a visa must fill out a form; each line item is assigned a certain number of points, and an applicant must have at least 30 points to even continue the visa-application process. Aliens between the ages of 18 and 24 years receive 8 points; if you’re over 50, you don’t get any points. The system rewards education, but you’re more attractive if your advanced degree is in math, science or technology than if it’s in philosophy or women’s studies.
Points are awarded for more esoteric achievements and criteria
If you’ve received a Nobel Prize, you’re awarded a whopping 25 points; an Olympic medal in the last eight years will get you 15 points. If you happen to have $1.8M or more of foreign currency to invest in a US commercial enterprise, you’ll receive 12 points. English fluency earns 12 points, but they’re not taking your word on this one–the application process would include an English test.
Merit-based system a departure from the current family-based immigrant visa policy
The US government believes in uniting families. To that end, they currently make visa numbers available for immediate relatives of US citizens or Green Card holders. “Immediate relatives” includes spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents. Obtaining a Green Card is still a lengthy process that involves filing detailed paperwork, a background check, a physical examination and an interview at the US embassy in the applicant’s country of origin. Petitioners here in the US are also financially responsible for the relatives they are sponsoring for Green Cards.
Merit-based visa bill unlikely to pass; but another version well may resurface
It appears that merit-based immigration bill has failed to gain traction beyond Trump’s endorsement and is unlikely to pass Congress. But it’s not unlikely that this or some version of this bill will resurface. In the eight months of Trump’s administration, immigration remains a highly charged issue in an unpredictable political environment. We encourage everyone who is planning to sponsor a family member for a family-based immigration visa to begin the process as soon as possible.