March 23, 2018 – With the immigration debate in the U.S. focusing on impact of chain immigration and family reunification, there are calls for a Canadian-style points-based system to be implemented.
Critics of the existing U.S. system was to see candidates accepted based on merit instead of the presence of family members.
Understanding Points-Based Immigration
With countries struggling to balance the aspirations of native residents with the economic advantage of attracting skilled immigrants, economic immigration is seen as more transparent and fair than family reunification.
Canada introduced its points-based immigration system in 1967, and it continues as the mainstay of the country’s immigration policy. Candidates are allotted points based on education, professional experience, language proficiency, age, adaptability to Canada, and qualified job offer.
Canada Express Entry also includes a Comprehensive Ranking System score based on similar factors, but also including a possible provincial nomination.
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Draws are conducted at regular intervals to determine the minimum score that applicants must have to qualify for an Invitation to Apply to one of Canada’s economic immigration programs. Only those applicants who fulfill the minimum criteria can move forward in the process.
Of the total number of immigrants accepted in Canada in 2017, more than half of them came through economic immigration channels. Canada welcomes 172,500 new economic immigrants, compared to 84,000 family reunification immigrants in 2017.
Australia employs a similar points-based system and saw 123,567 economic immigrants welcomed in 2016-17, compared to 56,220 family class immigrants.
Both Canada and Australia require applicants to fulfill additional requirements related to good character and medical tests in order to immigrate.
Canada substantially modified its points-based system in 2015 when it began moving away from a first-in, first served to a by invitation process. Points are now awarded for periods of study or work in Canada or having a hiring sponsor employer on hand to support an application. These factors in effect confirm a candidate’s likelihood of economic success. This has proven to be an important measure of integration.
Britain also has a points-based system while Germany is currently in transition.
But the U.S. continues to issue more visas to family reunification immigrants than those seeking permission to work in the country. The annual quota for family visas is set at close to 500,000, compared to 140,000 work visas.
Critics highlight the cost of individually assessing each applicant and the financial impact of taking on resettlement costs currently borne by sponsoring families. But analysis of 2016 immigration numbers show there is a strong case to support the transition to a points-based system.
Analysis of 2016 Immigration Data
In 2016, the U.S. admitted close to 1.2 million immigrants with the top five source countries being Mexico, China, Cuba, India, and the Dominican Republic, mainly through family reunification visas.
Canada and Australia admitted 296,000 and 184,000 immigrants respectively in 2016 and the top five countries of origin included the Philippines, India, China, Pakistan, and Britain.
While a complete dismantling of the existing system in the U.S. may do more harm than good, there is a case for greater emphasis on points-based immigration.
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