In his first State of the Union address President Donald Trump called for a the immigration system to be switched over to a merit based system. Citing President Lincoln, President Trump stated that it was time America moved away from a system that allowed for lower-skilled immigration and moved to one that was more about visas for skilled labour.
He also said that a merit based system would help the country save a lot of money. It would also ensure skilled immigrants were being given preference. He also said that families and refugees will also get a visa to the US but the aim will be to encourage immigration of skilled professionals. The announcement means Indian companies will be able to continue sending skilled employees to the US which had been facing a threat from an earlier bill.
In January a bill for changes to H1B visa rules was introduced by Democrat Zoe Lofgren which, if passed, would have made it mandatory for companies to pay H1B holders a minimum annual salary of $130,000 as opposed to the current minimum requirement of $60,000. Such a bill would have made it extremely expensive for companies to continue sending professionals to the US.
Addressing the proposed bill Nasscom, the trade association of India’s IT companies, said that outsourcing to India created 50,000 jobs and was generating $20 billion in taxes for the US. All of which would be in jeopardy if skilled labour was made too expensive to obtain. It also pointed out that should the minimum wage be raised, the US was likely to face a shortage of up to 1 million skilled IT professionals in the coming years.
Speaking on the merit based systems, the CEO of Greyhound Research, Mr. Sanchit Vir Gogia, said he was glad to see that the president realised that raising minimum wages was not the only way to revamp immigration policies. He also noted that many Fortune 500 companies would have been affected negatively had the bill proposed by Zoe Lofgren been passed.
While the president did not provide any details about how the new merit system would work, he did mention countries like Canada and Australia were already using this system. In countries like Australia two third of the permanent residency visas are reserved for skilled labour. The remaining third is for families and refugees.
There are also limits on how many visa are issued each year. In such systems the visa applicants are awarded points based on their age, profession, language skills, education and experience. Those applicants with the highest number of points would get preference when it comes to processing the application.