The Point of a Points System: Attracting Highly Skilled Immigrants the United States Needs and Ensuring Their Success

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, January 2013 | Go to article overview
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The Point of a Points System: Attracting Highly Skilled Immigrants the United States Needs and Ensuring Their Success


ABSTRACT

In a globalizing world, labor is an increasingly mobile and competitive resource. Responding to this changing labor market, countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have adopted points systems with the goal of attracting talented, highly skilled immigrants. In the United States, however, much of the national focus on immigration remains on deterring illegal immigration rather than attracting immigrants that the United States needs to remain competitive in a globalized world. But attracting skilled immigrants is only one ingredient to a successful points system; a country must also ensure those immigrants are successful and use their talents to the fullest potential post-entry. This Note proposes the United States enact its own points system, but with a narrower goal than other systems: attracting highly skilled immigrants, while ensuring their success in the United States.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.   POINTS SYSTEMS: AN IMMIGRATION INNOVATION
II.  GETTING THE "IN" IN CANADA, AUSTRALIA,
     THE UNITED KINGDOM, AND THE UNITED STATES
     A. Canada's Points System
     B. Australia's General-Skills-Migrants System
     C. The United Kingdom's Points-Based System
     D. The United States' Employment-Based
        System
III. DISSECTING THE DOWNSIDES OF POINTS SYSTEMS
     A. Human Rights Concerns
     B. Economic Concerns
     C. Points Systems Results
        1. Highly Skilled Immigrants Can Benefit
           the Receiving Country
        2. Caveats: When Point Systems Do
           Not Produce Advantages
IV. SUGGESTIONS FOR A U.S. POINTS SYSTEM
    A. Tweaking Points: Designing Points
       Categories with Labor Demand in Mind
    B. A Helping Hand: Offering Immigrant
       Assistance Post-Entry
    C. Reducing Socioeconomic Discrimination
V.  A  MEANS TO AN END: A U.S. POINTS SYSTEM CAN
       HELP THE UNITED STATES BETTER COMPETE IN
       A GLOBALIZED WORLD

I. POINTS SYSTEMS: AN IMMIGRATION INNOVATION

Traditionally, sovereign nations have enjoyed wide latitude in determining whom to welcome into their lands. After all, drawing lines in the sand to delineate "us" from "them" is one of the most important rights that make up sovereign power. (1) How nations decide to exercise this sovereign power, however, has undergone a dramatic change in the past quarter century--changing both the means and the ends of immigration policy. (2)

The "globalizing" world now views humans as a form of capital to be captured like any other resource. (3) In response, countries have begun implementing immigration points systems to better capture this potential resource. (4) Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have developed their points systems to attract skilled migrants. (5) In contrast, the United States has stood still, choosing to retain its old employment-based immigration regime. (6)

Points systems all share a similar goal of attracting human capital in a procedurally simple manner that, in theory, increases the overall wealth of the receiving country. (7) As the name suggests, points systems use a rubric of point categories to determine an immigrant's eligibility for entry. (8) Predetermined amounts of points are awarded for attributes that the receiving country determines are indicators of human capital, such as advanced degrees, work experience, and language proficiency. (9)

In addition to enhancing a country's wealth, points systems also offer procedural simplicity and transparency. (10) The receiving country benefits from the efficiency and reduced costs of a simplified admissions procedure, while the prospective immigrant avoids a costly expenditure of time and effort navigating a bureaucratic maze of immigration policy. (11)

This new focus on human capital marks a major shift in immigration policy that has traditionally been dominated by family reunification, humanitarian, and other noneconomic goals. (12) This immigration innovation, however, also raises new concerns.

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