A Merit-Based Immigration Executive Order: What to Expect

Merit-Based Immigration Executive Order_ What to Expect

About two months ago, President Trump stated that he would sign an Executive Order that would transform our current immigration system in the United States to a “merit-based” system.  Of course, it is hard to imagine that a single Executive Order would be able to alter the country’s entire immigration system, but the proposed Executive Order should not be taken lightly.


The current Administration has followed through with a number of changes to our immigration system already.  Thus, if the President is proposing another immigration-related Executive Order, we should assume that it will likely come to fruition.


The best way to understand the proposed changes to our immigration system is to first understand how our currentimmigration system is set up and administered.  Then, it will be easier to explain what a new merit-based immigration system might mean for the future.


Accordingly, in this article, we will first take a look at how the U.S. currently allows people to immigrate to this country.  Then, we will discuss how a merit-based system may be carried out.  If you have more questions, we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law.  Feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.


How Do People Currently Immigrate to the U.S.?


Currently, our immigration system provides multiple categories in which to legally immigrate to the U.S.  They are as follows:


  • Family-based immigration

    .About half of the people who immigrate to the U.S. do so by virtue of being related to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (i.e., person with a green card).  Thus, if you are from a foreign country and you get married to a U.S. citizen, then you may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status.  By the same token, if you are the parent of an adult U.S. citizen or the child of a U.S. citizen, then your family relationship may allow you to obtain legal status in the U.S.

  • Employment-based immigration

    There are a number of avenues by which an employer in the U.S. can help you get legal status in the U.S.  Most directly, if you receive a job offer to work in the U.S., then your employer may be able to sponsor you to obtain a USA work visa that allows you to come to the U.S. to work for that employer.

  • Investment-based immigration

    It is not as often talked about, but a foreign-born person may immigrate to the U.S. based on making a financial investment in a U.S. business.  Because the U.S. wants to encourage economic investment in companies on our shores, our immigration system has visas designated for those who seek investment opportunities in the U.S.

  • Highly skilled individual immigration

    The U.S. is always interested in attracting people to the country who can make extraordinary contributions to the American economy and culture.  Thus, our immigration system has visa categories set aside for individuals who are at the top of their field, whether it is in the field of science, technology, business, the arts, sports, etc.  The idea behind these high-skilled visa categories is that people with extraordinary skills and abilities may contribute substantially to the nation.

  • Immigration based on Individual Hardship

    The current immigration system also provides options for people who are victims of persecution in their home. These options include asylum or refugee status.  Those seeking asylum are people who are already on U.S. soil and have a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home country.  Those seeking refugee status have a credible fear of persecution, but they are still in their home country.

  • Immigration based on Diverse Background

    In the interest of diversity, the U.S. seeks to allow people to immigrate from countries that are currently not well represented in the U.S.  Thus, the current immigration system has a “diversity lottery,” which provides an avenue for those who are from those traditionally underrepresented areas.


In sum, our current immigration system provides multiple ways to obtain legal status in the country.


What is Merit-Based Immigration System?


As the name suggests, a merit-based immigration system would place the focus of immigration policy on people’s merit, their credentials, and/or their background.  The system would, therefore, place less emphasis on the multiple avenues of diversity, hardship, or family relations, and put a premium on a person’s merit.


The preference, under a merit-based system, would go to highly skilled people.  Essentially, the focus would be on what skills and value potential immigrants can bring to the U.S., more so than on an individual’s hardship or diversity.

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How Will a Merit-Based System Work in the U.S.?


We currently do not know the specifics of how a merit-based immigration system would work in the U.S.


A good way to understand how a merit-based system may work is to see how it works in other countries who employ a merit-based system.  Canada is one such country.


In Canada, the merit-based system is administered as a point system.  People looking to immigrate get a certain number of points based on a set of factors.  For example, a person’s ability to speak English would equal a certain number of points.  Similarly, a person’s level of education or work specialization would also translate into a number of points.  Consequently, the more points a person has, the more chance he or she would have in obtaining legal status in the country.


That point system is what the U.S. might employ if the President’s proposal ultimately becomes an Executive Order.


It is unclear at this point what factors the U.S. might use in any merit-based system it employs, but we at Ashoori Law are closely monitoring the situation for developments.




The recent proposed Executive Order on merit-based immigration has yet to be implemented, but it represents a significant change to how the U.S. may handle immigration going forward. If you have any questions about the proposed Executive Order, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.

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Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.