The New Merit-Based Point System for Immigration Proposed by S. 744

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Senate Bill No. 744, known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, was introduced in the Senate on April 16, 2013, and passed by the Senate in late June, paving the way for further debate and likely amendments in the House.

But one of the portions of the bill that is thought to have strong support there is the section related to a new merit-based point system for immigration. This system would apply to those immigrants currently seeking benefits under the diversity visa program or the categories for siblings and adult married children of U.S. citizens, and it would take the place of any prior processes applicable to those individuals.

The system would also award points to these immigrants that would be used to prioritize their petitions for visas or lawful permanent resident status, and the points would be related to levels of education, work experience, and other qualifications. The new system would prioritize immigrants who are younger, more educated and skilled, and more fluent in English. Family ties and regional diversity factors receive lower point scoring and weighting.

The new system would create two tracks for immigrants to follow for obtaining immigration benefits. A tier 1 track would apply to higher-skilled immigrants with advanced educational credentials and experience, and a tier 2 track would apply to less-skilled immigrants. Starting in the fifth fiscal year after enactment of the bill, half of the available visas for workers would be awarded to those who scored highest under tier 1, and half would go to those who scored highest in tier 2.

Between 120,000 and 250,000 visas would be allocated each year based on the point system, and the annual visa cap would fluctuate according to a formula that takes into account the number of visas requested the previous year and the domestic unemployment rate in the current year.

We will be tracking continuing developments in federal immigration reform as they occur, and look forward to bringing you more information in the months ahead about the progress of proposed reforms on Capitol Hill.