Points-based immigration system

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A points-based immigration system is an immigration system where a noncitizen's eligibility to immigrate is (partly or wholly) determined by whether that noncitizen is able to score above a threshold number of points in a scoring system that might include such factors as education level, wealth, connection with the country, language fluency, existing job offer, or others.[1][2][3] Points-based immigration systems are sometimes also referred to as merit-based immigration systems,[4][5] Countries that use points-based immigration systems may have other pathways for potential immigrants (such as immediate family, refugees, etc.), so that meeting the points threshold is not necessary for all immigrants. They may also have additional criteria that points-based immigrants need to satisfy, such as no criminal record or no involvement with terrorist organizations. Some countries that use points-based immigration systems are the United Kingdom (see main article), Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.[3][2][6] Canada and Australia are the two countries with the most experience with the points-based system, and are often used as the comparison points when judging whether a country's immigration system is points-based.[5][2][7]:17[8]

Points-based systems by country[edit]


Canada was the first country to introduce a points-based immigration system, doing so in 1967.[2][1][7]:19 The change came as Canada was moving past an immigration system that distinguished based on race and country of origin.[2][7] The new system favored youth, education, experience and fluency in English or French, i.e., broad human capital as opposed to a specific job offer or job-specific skills.[2][7] The points-based immigration system has been identified as one of the factors in the change in Canada's immigrant distribution from 85% European to 15% European and leveled the field of immigration.[7]:20

In response to lower and declining labor force participation among people admitted through the points-based system relative to native Canadian workers, two reasons were identified: lack of recognition by Canadian employers of foreign educational degrees, and poor language fluency. As a result, the government changed its points-based system to weigh English and French language fluency more heavily.[7] The system was also changed so that any skilled applicant with a job offer scores higher than any applicant without.[2] The application process was again revamped due to the gap between a foreign candidate and an employer and reduced the points for job offer, they also changed the system to an invitation to immigrate method that allows an open expression of interest with the option the pool of candidates can remain a year or two in the system to meet the frequently published "lottery point" and get invited. The lack of visibility of qualified immigrant candidate profiles in the job bank for the employers and hiring agencies in reaching out with a job offer was observed to lag the process.[2]

Canada has been cited as an example of a successful use of a points-based system and a society that embraces multiculturalism.[9] However, it is falling back to older standards where first registered gets first selection per scores to support immigration agents who - with the introduction of new system - didn't have a say in the matter to force applicants. French Academy also have influenced the current changes.[10]


In 1972, the Labor Government elected in Australia decided migrants would be granted a visa based on personal attributes and ability to contribute to Australian society.[1] In 1989, Australia formalized a points-based immigration system similar to Canada's[1][7] (The Economist gives a date of 1979 for initial rollout of the policy).[2] Like Canada, Australia switched to the points-based system as it was transitioning out of its history of race-based (Briton-focused, white-only) immigration policy.[2][7]:16 Australia's experience of the system is unique with smaller changes in regulations and diverse options through provincial programs. Australia shifted to an application process where people were invited to express interest if they meet a required-straight forward score and the applicants would be invited per labour market requirements within a year or two after being in the pool.[2][11]

In 2017, Australia's points-based system was cited as an inspiration and was raised as an elegant point during discussions of immigration policy in the United Kingdom in the context of Brexit.[12][13][14] It has also been cited in the context of Donald Trump's interest in making the United States immigration system more merit-based and reducing its focus on extended family migration after the Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced putting "Australians first" through a Facebook video.[15][16]

United Kingdom[edit]

Between 2008 and 2010, the U. K. phased in a points-based immigration system for regulating immigration from outside the European Economic Area. The Economist reports that the system did not evolve into a points-based system like that of Australia or Canada due to the numerous special exemptions carved out by various interest groups, and subsequent slashing of immigration under the Tory government.[2] However, specialty based immigration is open in the United Kingdom.

United States of America[edit]

The Trump administration has proposed to bring back the system for issuing green cards, to make the USCIS system efficient and to reduce backlogs. The administration also intends to cancel their current green card lottery and chain migration systems by implementing a point-based system. Even though the new visa will have regulations and caps, it might be open for anyone who meets the standards. Due to the increasing need for Laborers and subsequent support for illegal alien workers[17][18] (like in the agricultural industry[19]), a legalized satisfaction for the service industry needs in form of laborer immigration (an extended form of H-2B visa) is in the workings, it as such avoids 457 visa/temporary work permit problems that is common in Australia.[20][21] (Australia, however, have snubbed the Visa from January 2018 and replaced it with 482 Visa that allows immigration and requires Individual band score of 5 in IELTS exams for the candidates, and for STEM employers to pay ten percent of the salary offered to the foreign worker at the Skilling Australians Fund per year.) In the developing system the immigrants will be welcomed to work specifically in the service sector for a required period of time, and for equitable reasons they can qualify for green card by natural processing with the entry requirement that the immigrant meet an English language proficiency and show of their willingness to enter into an American education program (like community colleges) for gaining skills and basis for cultural integration while working, this will be counted as a goodwill factor in citizenship application. Absence of criminal records will also be a significant criteria for successful entry. However, highly skilled immigrants might require a job offer through a governmental "job match and selection" platform along with meeting the entry requirements to avoid "Ph.D cabdrivers" phenomenon and hostile brain drain of their native country. Specialty professionals (STEM field) will be selected per labor market statistical projection that will have a safeguard for displacement of jobs for citizens per Americans first policy by maintaining attraction of new and competent overseas workers.[22][23]

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand introduced a points-based system in 1991.[2]

Initial assumptions of points-based systems[edit]

Points-based systems that incorporate job offers and language fluency can lead to better immigrant employment rates[edit]

Both Canada and Australia began with points-based systems focused more on human capital than on specific job offers, but both found through experience that this resulted in lower immigrant employment rates compared with natives or with immigrants in certain states and provinces. This led Madeleine Sumption of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University to claim that "pure" point systems "don't work."[2] Both countries modified their points-based systems to take job offers into account.[2][7]:19-20 But this didn't open window for job opportunities or an open channel for immigrant candidates and employers; additional paperwork and lack of channels have been observed resulting in low rates of immigration and many have reverted or reduced points required in these factors.

Points-based systems require frequent tweaking[edit]

Demetrios Papademetriou of the Migration Policy Institute argued, based on the frequent tweaking of criteria used by Canada and Australia, that points-based systems require frequent tweaking in order to be successful.[5] Given the slow pace of United States immigration legislation, he argued that this required a greater level of planning for the bureaucracy than seen in the United States immigration system, so to gain autonomy for the implementation of a points-based system would be a challenge for the United States.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Donald, Adam (June 1, 2016). "Immigration points-based systems compared". BBC. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "What's the point? The countries that invented points-based immigration systems have concluded they do not work". The Economist. July 7, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Points based immigration systems around the world". workpermit.com. March 6, 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  4. ^ "Merit-Based Immigration Systems". Federation for American Immigration Reform. March 1, 2017. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Iconangelo, David (March 2, 2017). "How would 'merit-based' systems change US immigration? Points-based immigration systems are in place in most wealthy countries. But if they function smoothly, it's because of bureaucrats". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  6. ^ "Points-Based Immigration Systems". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Murray, Alasdair (January 1, 2011). "Britain's points based migration system" (PDF). Centre Forum. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  8. ^ Kelly Buchanan, Tariq Ahmad, & Clare Feikert-Ahalt. (2013, March). Points-Based Immigration Systems. The Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/law/help/points-based-immigration/Points-Based%20Immigration%20Systems.pdf
  9. ^ Tepperman, Jonathan (September 16, 2016). "How Canada Got Immigration Right. The U.S. could learn from its northern neighbor's system, which selects immigrants able to make material contributions and embraces multiculturalism". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  10. ^ http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=1318&top=29
  11. ^ http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-australias-points-system-for-immigration-26065
  12. ^ "Explainer: what is Australia's 'points system' for immigration?". The Conversation. June 22, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  13. ^ McTernan, John (June 3, 2016). "Australia's points system is more liberal than you think. Such a scheme in the UK would not have the effect that Brexiters expect". Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  14. ^ Smith, Jamie (June 1, 2016). "How Australia's points-based immigration system works. Strong public support for controlled programme to fill skills shortages". Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  15. ^ Williams, Jacqueline (August 3, 2017). "Trump Looks to Australia in Overhauling Immigration System". New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2017.
  16. ^ https://www.facebook.com/malcolmturnbull/videos/10155311599176579/
  17. ^ http://www.pewhispanic.org/files/reports/133.pdf
  18. ^ https://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/us-immigration-policy-program-data-hub/unauthorized-immigrant-population-profiles
  19. ^ http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-skelton-california-agriculture-trump-immigration-tariffs-20180315-story.html
  20. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/30/australian-slavery-inquiry-told-fruit-pickers-brainwashed-and-trapped-in-debt
  21. ^ http://www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/fruit-picking-investigation/
  22. ^ Kopan, Octavio Blanco and Tal. "Trump's merit-based immigration system: Who would get in?".
  23. ^ https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/02/politics/cotton-perdue-trump-bill-point-system-merit-based/index.html