The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S. 744, “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,”) could overhaul the entire immigration system. It could accelerate current Green Card applications, increase options for immigrant workers, investors, and entrepreneurs. It could enable immigrant students to obtain green cards upon completion of certain courses of study. It could create a path to legalization and citizenship for this nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
In addition, the bill could introduce a merit-based visa. Once enacted, it would enable 120,000 immigrants to obtain permanent visas each year through the accumulation of points based on their skills, employment history, and level of education. Visas would be allocated in two tiers with 50% of visas in each tier. Tier one would encompass high-skilled immigrants and tier 2 would encompass low-skilled immigrants. The points would be allocated as follows:
In both tiers employment history will play the biggest role, followed by education. This system seeks to attract the best and brightest to our shores, those who can contribute immediately to our economy. It seeks to discourage “chain migration” by downplaying family ties.
Immigration Reform would eliminate the diversity visa, the green card lottery that the US government holds every year. Through the lottery, 50,000 green cards are given to applicants from countries with less than 5,000 immigrants from the previous year. The program was designed to increase diversity in our immigration system and adjust for the large numbers of immigrants that come from over-represented countries. The merit-based system would partially replace this system as well as the allowance for siblings of US citizens to apply for family-sponsored visas.
The biggest advantage of the merit-based system would go to legal immigrants who are already working in the US. Immigrants who currently hold an E-1, E-2, L-1, H-1B or other similar working visa do not have a clear path to a permanent visa. These visas are temporary and the immigrant must re-qualify from scratch every time they wish to renew; previous successful renewals and time spent in the country are not taken into account. This creates quite a bit of uncertainty. A Merit-Based Visa would create a direct path to a permanent visa for such people.