Family-Based V Merit-Based Immigration: Everything you need to know
President Donald Trump has been very vocal about his ambitions to end extended family-based immigration in the United States.
The president’s rallying call grew louder after a suspected terrorist detonated a bomb inside a New York City subway on December 11th. Federal officials later confirmed the suspect in the bombing had entered the United States with a family-based green card or through what the president calls “chain migration”.
In a tweet from November 1st, the president wrote:
“CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE!”
Instead of a family-based immigration system, the Trump administration is pushing for a merit-based system. To understand how that could impact you, we’re going to break down what these different type of immigration systems mean.
The United States currently uses a family-based immigration system that emphasizes family unification.
For example, United States citizens are allowed to obtain green cards for their spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age and their parents who are over 21. These family members are categorized as “immediate relatives” by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Immediate relatives can obtain green cards fairly quickly to enter the country.
United States citizens can also petition for other family members including unmarried children over 21 years of age, married sons and daughters and siblings who are over the age of 21. The USCIS places these family members in the “family-based preference” category.
Immediate relatives of green card holders are also part of the “family-based preference” category. These immigrants typically have to wait years to enter the United States depending on their country of origin. Some immigrants in this category have to wait for decades in order to enter the United States legally.
Critics of family-based immigration refer to the system as “chain migration” where one family member can create a chain for multiple immigrants to enter the country. Supporters say it helps
Immigrants who enter the country through the family-based process must still complete complex immigration forms and are investigated by the USCIS to determine if they are eligible to enter the country.
The merit-based immigration system the Trump administration is advocating for would eliminate most immigration using family ties.
In August of 2017, President Donald Trump and two congressmen introduced the RAISE Act. An immigration reform bill that would eliminate the family-based immigration system.
The proposal would reduce current immigration (over 1 million people per year) by 41 percent in its first year and 50 percent by its 10th year.
Currently, 64 percent of green cards issued are family-based. Forty-four percent are for spouses and minor children of U.S. residents and 20 percent are for “family-sponsored preferences.” This category includes parents and siblings; the RAISE Act would eliminate these categories.
It also creates a renewable temporary visa for the elderly parents of U.S. residents to come to the United States for the purposes of caretaking.
The RAISE Act would allow immigrants to enter the country strictly through a points-based system. Immigrants would be awarded points for categories such as their age, education, knowledge of English, the salary of a U.S. job offer and extraordinary achievements.
When Might this Change Occur?
There’s really no way to tell when or if the United States’ immigration system would change from a family-based system to a merit-based system. A dramatic change in the law would have to be approved by Congress and then signed by President Donald Trump.
The president has said it is one of his top priorities to reshape the American immigration system but he will need to work with congressional leaders in order to make that happen.
A timetable for when and if immigration reform would happen remains unclear.
Regardless of when it might happen, it’s important to note that any change to the law likely would not impact immigration forms that have been submitted prior to the law taking effect.
That means forms that are submitted to the USCIS prior to the law being changed would still be processed under the current immigration system.
U.S. citizens who would like to sponsor relatives for green cards can get their immigration forms completed quickly with American Immigration Center. American Immigration Center guides immigrants through the application process while checking their answers along the way for common errors.
You can find out if you’re eligible to sponsor a relative by taking this free eligibility quiz.
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