White House Unveils Immigration Plan Prioritizing High-Skilled Workers

May 17, 2019

As a federal judge prepares to examine the Trump administration's curbing of H-1B visas, President Trump announced an immigration plan to significantly raise the share of merit-based immigration to the United States from 12% to 57%.

Green cards would be allocated via a points system that prioritizes work skills, education, and fluency in English, according to briefings by the White House.  The overall number of immigrants admitted to the United States would not be changed.

The plan would be a boon to H-1B workers and others on temporary work visas waiting on a green card.  However there is no indication yet that it would alter the number of H-1B, H-2B, or other temporary work visas.

Currently, 12% of immigrants are admitted on a skills basis while 66% are admitted based on family ties.  President Trump’s proposal aims to raise the share of immigrants admitted on the basis of skill to 57% and reduce the share of immigrants admitted based on family ties to 33%.

President Trump said at a news conference, “Some of our most skilled students at our world-class universities are going home because they have no relatives to sponsor them here in the United States… we want these exceptional students and workers to stay and flourish and thrive in America.”

HR Policy has long supported demand-driven green card reform and providing foreign students who acquire advanced degrees in STEM disciplines at American higher education institutions a path to U.S. citizenship if they wish to use their talents in America rather than return to their country of origin.  However, the proposal comes with substantial border security measures and details are lacking.

The plan lacks broad backing from either chamber in Congress at this point.  Nor is there legislative language to parse out the details.  For these and other reasons relating to the political environment, it is highly unlikely to become law.  However, it is an indication that at least some Republicans are serious about using countries such as Australia, whose policies the plan appears to resemble, as a model.

Judge could shed light on Trump administration’s H-1B approval process:  Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may order discovery on USCIS’s processing of H-1B visa applications, according to news reports.  While the law regulating H-1B visas has not changed in the last year, application approval rates have plummeted during that same time.  The judge’s move could provide answers as well as open the door for litigation.