The Point-System for Immigration Reform: Give Me Your Young, Highly-Educated, and Highly Experienced

The U.S. Senate's immigration bill that just passed in June includes a complex scoring system to ascribe points to prospective immigrants. The highest scorers, up to 250,000 annually, could obtain green cards. The Senate plan sets out one tier for white collar workers, and one tier for blue collar workers.

The white collar tier (Tier 1) favors U.S. work experience in a high-skill field, qualifications in a high-demand job, entrepreneurship, English language skills, family in the U.S., high levels of post-secondary education, youth, less represented country of origin, and a level of civic involvement. The amount of U.S. work experience in a high-skilled job carries the most weight, followed by level of education. The San Jose Mercury News created a scoring system based on the language of the Senate bill, and provides a quiz to see how many points you might earn with this point system.

Ascribing so much weight to education and U.S. work experience strongly favors the typical scenario we see at the Gee Law Firm: a foreign national comes to the U.S. for a Master's program in a STEM field, and then graduates and starts working for a U.S. company in OPT (optional practical training), immediately upon completing their Master's degree. The U.S. company then sponsors the foreign national for an H-1B, and then perhaps an employment-based green card. This is a common path to accumulating several years of U.S. work experience in a high-skill field. The main possible trade-off, point wise, with this scenario is that the more U.S. experience foreign nationals have, the older they will be. The Senate's scoring system ascribes 8 points for ages 18-24, none for foreign nationals over the age of 38, and has different age/point break downs between those ages.

The blue collar tier (Tier 2) also favors U.S. work experience, a current job or job offer in the U.S. - not necessarily in a high-demand field, family in the U.S., youth, English, and a less represented country of origin. Unlike Tier 1, however, Tier 2 also ascribes weight to whether the applicant is a primary caregiver. Again, the San Jose Mercury News created a scoring system for this Tier based on the language of the Senate bill, and provides a quiz for this tier as well.

The Tier 1 priorities do provide a response to the calls for making room for more highly-skilled workers, in order to fill a void as well as to attract top talent to the U.S. However, California's Senator Barbara Boxer was among several Senators to argue the white-collar point scale was unfair to working women because of its focus on fields typically dominated by men, such as computer engineering. Senator Boxer was among several Senators to sponsor an amendment that would have added another category of occupations commonly held by women, such as nursing - but that amendment was not considered before the bill passed.

It's important to remember that even though this point system takes family members into account, the Senate bill would not eliminate family-based immigration. The Senate bill eliminates a couple of family-based immigration categories, but still provides for the spouses, parents, and minor children of U.S. citizens, as well as the spouses and minor children of permanent residents.

At the Gee Law Firm, we are following the progress of comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. Congress. If a new immigration law passes, we will be ready to advise on it. Until that happens, our attorneys are available to advise you on your immigration situation under current immigration laws. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 to discuss your immigration needs.

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee