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Would a Merit-Based Immigration System Work?

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Would a merit-based immigration system work? That’s a very good, and slightly complicated, question that has no concrete answer – so, maybe. What we can factually look at is how merit-based immigration systems work in the world today, and ask if the same can be applied to the United States.

We are an immigration bond company in Fort Lauderdale, and we run an immigration blog to raise awareness in the community. Though we don’t have the answer, we hope to continue to ask tough questions and keep the immigration community informed.

Current State of Immigration System in The U.S.

The United States has a complicated and mixed immigration system that utilizes merit, family-based, and lottery systems.

  • Family System

The most common and widely-known immigration system is family-based immigration. There are three ways in which an immigrant can gain legal status in the U.S. Through marriage, or through immediate relatives, like children and parents [1].

  • Lottery System

The least known method to get legal immigration status is through the green card lottery. Every year, the United States Green Card Lottery issues 55,000 green cards to immigrants from all over the world. This system is based on three factors: where are you from, what level of education do you possess, and what kind of job experience you have [1].

  • Merit System

The merit-based immigration system, as it currently exists, rewards immigrants who have highly skilled jobs [1]. Silicon Valley and the tech industry have benefitted the most form a merit system, and most CEOs says harsh immigration policies are a threat to innovation.


The RAISE Act was introduced in February 2017, and as of this writing, it has not yet been passed. If the bill is passed, it would reduce the influx of legal immigration to the United States by at least 50 percent [2].

The requirements are notoriously difficult. Time Magazine created a RIASE Act test to see if average U.S. citizens would be allowed to immigrate legal to America. There is still a lot of push back for this bill because it may be too difficult for skilled workers to immigrate to the U.S. Many Silicon Valley CEOs are fighting the RAISE Act.

Can We Implement a Merit-Based Immigration System?

Pundits on both sides agree that a merit-based immigration system is beneficial [3]. The issue is, how high should we set the bar? America loves a good “rags to riches” story, but if you don’t let in the rags, the stories will never exist.

The current merit-based system combines industry and government. Employers and universities do all the heavy lifting, finding immigrants who they believe are highly skilled and who have promising careers ahead of them.

They then do all the work to convince the government to let them stay. It has been working so far, does it need to be updated?


[1]: American Immigration Council – How the United States Immigration System Works

[2]: – RAISE Act

[3]: American Conservative – Why Not a Merit-Based Immigration System?