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 Home > News & Policies > May 2007

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 31, 2007

Fact Sheet: Establishing a Merit-Based System for Future Immigration
Bipartisan Immigration Bill Reforms System To Balance Family Connections And Economic Needs

     Fact sheet In Focus: Immigration

Three Key Points On The Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill's Merit-Based System

1. The Bipartisan Immigration Bill Reforms The Immigration System To Better Balance The Importance Of Family Connections With U.S. Economic Needs.

2. The Bill Will Help Keep The U.S. Competitive In The Global Economy By Establishing A New Merit-Based System For Immigration That Is Similar To Those Used By Other Countries. There will still be more family-based than merit-based visas.

3. The Bill Will Eliminate The Current Application Backlog For Employment-Based Visas And Make 380,000 Green Cards Available Under The Merit-Based System - Up From 140,000 Employment-Based Visas Available Today.

The Bill Will Create A Balanced Immigration System That Meets Economic And Family Needs

The Bipartisan Immigration Reform Bill Establishes A New Merit-Based System To Select Future Immigrants Based On The Skills And Attributes They Will Bring To The United States. Under the merit-based system, future immigrants applying for permanent residency in the U.S. will be assigned points for attributes that further our national interest, including: skills and work experience, with added points for U.S. employment in a specialty or high-demand field; education, with added points for training in science, math, and technology; employer endorsement; ability to speak English; and family ties to the U.S.

The Bill Creates A Balance In The Immigration System That Will Help Keep The Economy Competitive While Upholding The Importance Of Family Connections. The bill would clear the backlog of family-based applications under the current system within eight years. Even after family backlogs are cleared and the rebalancing of visas is complete, there will still be more family-based green cards than merit-based green cards issued.

Once The Backlogs Of Employment-Based Applicants And Family-Based Applicants Are Cleared, There Will Be 380,000 Green Cards Available Under The Merit-Based System - Up From 140,000 Employment-Based Green Cards Today. The bill makes 247,000 green cards immediately available under the merit-based system each year for the first five years after enactment.

The Bill Includes A Large, Immediate Increase In The H-1B Visa Cap For Skilled Foreign Workers. The H-1B visa cap will rise from 65,000 now to 115,000 for the first year. Going forward, the cap will rise and fall based on economic need, allowing for adjustments up to 180,000. Current H-1B exemptions will remain intact, and new exemptions will free up as many as 6,800 additional visas.

The Merit-Based System Will Attract Workers In High-Demand Occupations

The Merit-Based System Will Balance The Demand For High-Skill And Low-Skill Workers. Points under the merit-based system will be determined by a combination of attributes and skills workers will bring to the U.S. economy. A floor of 10,000 green cards will be maintained for unskilled workers. Points are awarded for:

1. Employment: Maximum Of 47 Points, Including:

  • 20 points for U.S. employment in specialty occupations, as determined by USCIS. Examples include medical, health, scientific, education, biotechnology, and business disciplines.
  • 16 points for U.S. employment in a high-demand field, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. These jobs are in one of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest job growth over the next ten years. Examples include waiters and waitresses, home health aides, computer software engineers, janitors and cleaners, and computer systems analysts.
  • 8 points for U.S. employment in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) or health occupations for at least one year.
  • 6 points if an employer pays 50 percent of the fee for the worker's application to become a Lawful Permanent Resident and 1) offers a job or 2) attests for a current employee
  • 3 points if the worker is aged 25-39.
  • 2 points for each year worked in a U.S. firm with maximum of 10 points allowed for this category.

2. Education: Maximum Of 28 Points, Including:

  • 20 points for an MD, MBA, graduate degree, etc.
  • 16 points for a Bachelor's degree
  • 10 points for an Associate's degree
  • 8 points for an Associate's degree or higher in STEM field
  • 8 points for a completed U.S. Department of Labor registered apprenticeship
  • 6 points for a high school diploma or GED
  • 5 points for completion of a certified Perkins vocational education program

3. English And Civics: Maximum Of 15 Points, Including:

  • 15 points for native speakers of English or a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of 75 or higher
  • 10 points for a TOEFL score of 60-74
  • 6 points for passing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services citizenship tests in English and civics

4. Extended Family: Maximum Of 10 Points (If Applicant Already Has 55 Points From Other Categories), Including:

  • 8 points if the applicant is the adult child of a U.S. citizen
  • 6 points if the applicant is the adult child of a Lawful Permanent Resident
  • 4 points if the applicant is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
  • 2 points if the applicant sought a family visa in any of the above categories after May 1, 2005

Examples Of Workers Under New Merit-Based System

Software Developer
20 - Specialty Occupation
8 - STEM Occupation
6 - Employer Endorsement
3 - Age (25-39)
20 - Master's Degree
8 - STEM Education
15 - English
Total: 80 points

Medical Assistant 16 - High Demand Occupation
8 - STEM Occupation
6 - Employer Endorsement
10 - Experience
3 - Age (25-39)
6 - Education (GED)
8 - Registered Apprenticeship
4 - Sibling of U.S. citizen
6 - Basic English
Total: 67 points

Maintenance Or Repair Worker
16 - High Demand Occupation
10 - U.S. work experience
8 - High school diploma
6 - Employer endorsement
6 - Basic English
5 - Perkins vocational education program
3 - Age (25-39)
Total: 54 points

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