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What Merit-Based Immigration Means

Since early 2018, the topic of merit-based immigration has been making headlines in the United States thanks to a proposal presented by the White House and strongly supported by President Donald Trump, who believes the current system, which partly favors family-based immigration, is broken. Trump’s proposal would include giving priority to a merit or points-based system that would give the U.S. a certain socioeconomic advantage. 

To understand both merit and family-based immigration, it helps to consider the personal history of Melania Trump, the First Lady of the United States, who came to this country on a talent visa before she met her husband. The First Lady was admitted the U.S. based on the merit of her modeling work. She later became a legal resident through her marriage to Donald Trump, and she eventually helped her parents obtain green cards, which is an example of family-based immigration. 

Depending on the type of visa sought by foreigners who wish to work or live in the U.S., merit-based criteria may apply. For example, H-1B visas are granted to skilled foreigners. Although they fall under the non-immigrant category, recipients of H-1B visas may later be able to adjust their status and pursue green cards if they marry U.S. citizens.Also, their employers may sponsor their green cards.

The EB-5 visa is a more accurate example of merit-based immigration since it requires applicants to invest between $500,000 to one million dollars on new business enterprises that create a certain number of American jobs. The EB-5 process is intended to culminate in the issuance of a green card. 

Trump and his supporters in Congress want to reduce the number of family-based visas, such as those the First Lady obtained for her parents, and implement a points-based system that would evaluate the merits of potential immigrants. Applicants would earn points based on criteria such as skills, education, being fluent in English, and having access to substantial liquid assets they can turn into investments in the U.S. A legislative proposal known as the RAISE Act, introduced in 2017, favors this points-based system, and Trump is firmly behind it. 

Critics of the RAISE Act proposal argue that merit-based immigration is already coded into the current system. For example, B visitor visas often require applicants to show they have enough reasons to return to their countries, which translates into properties, money in the bank, family ties, and even political stability back home. 

San Diego immigration attorneys often tell their clients that “showing merits” on their family-based immigration applications will help them in terms of making the approval process smoother. To this effect, the parents of a naturalized U.S. citizen can mention they have advanced degrees or funds they intend to invest in the U.S., which would make them more attractive to immigration case adjudicators conducting interviews. 

Although merit-based immigration has certain advantages, making it the primary system in the U.S. could increase illegal migration since it would place barriers to entry that some foreigners may choose to circumvent.

Get in touch with trusted immigration lawyers for more information on merit-based and family-based immigration. San Diego is home to KS Visa Law, immigration attorneys you can count on. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment.

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