How Will Trump’s “merit-based” Immigration Affect U.S. Employers?

How Will Trump’s “merit-based” Immigration Affect U.S. Employers?

There’s no doubt that Donald Trump has done more than any other president to put those who follow U.S. immigration into a tizzy by doing things such as suggesting a change to “merit-based” immigration. He has recklessly and, seemingly without any knowledge of the current immigration system, made Executive Orders and touted plans that seem to have no basis in reality. The result of his campaign rhetoric, misguided executive orders and crazy tweets has been mixed: chaos reigned at many U.S. airportsimmigrants caught attempting to cross the U.S. southern border dipped and DACA recipients continue (for now) to live and work in the U.S. (Trump’s camp confusingly claims that they are still subject to deportation but are not a deportation priority.)

President Trump has now touted a proposed “merit-based” immigration plan. Trump has yet to give specifics about the plan other than his desire to create a system more like Canada or Australia. It is speculated that the plan will give more “points” to someone with a degree or specialized training and will give fewer points to those hopeful immigrants who would be more suited for low-skilled labor jobs.

Of course, with any incredibly complicated system, this plan, if implemented, would create positives and negatives for immigrants; but what does this “merit-based” plan mean for employers? It all depends on the job you’re offering and the skills you’re looking for in an employee.

Low-Skilled Labor

For those employers looking for low-skilled labor, the outlook isn’t good. This merit-based system would give preference to those with a degree or certificate or specialized training. Of course, many immigrants to the U.S. work in low-skilled jobs and thousands of employers across the country depend on this labor to successfully run their businesses. The result of fewer laborers is higher wages, which in turn affects the cost of goods sold.

In addition, the hiring process itself may become more difficult for these low-skilled jobs. With fewer available workers, many positions simply go unfilled.


This proposed plan could work well for those hiring professionals. In particular, those companies across the country that are trying to fill “tech” positions may get some much-needed relief from the insane task of hiring. This plan could lift some of the challenges companies have had regarding limits to the number of foreign employees. Many employers know the stress of entering the H-1B  visa lottery each year. It’s possible that a merit-based immigration plan could help those employers continue to hire much-needed talent without a “cap.”

Somewhere in the Middle: Semi-Skilled

It’s unclear where you’re left if you are looking for employees with some skills but no degree. Since the plan is still not specific, it’s hard to tell the type of effects “merit-based” will have on your visa applications and results. That said, Trump claims that the reason behind this proposed plan is to make sure immigrants who come to the U.S. will not be dependent upon government services. So, to speculate completely, you may enjoy some hiring benefits if you can show that you are offering a job to someone who will be paid a certain amount over the poverty line.

At the moment, we’re all speculating regarding what Trump may or may not do to help employers hire the international talent and labor that is desperately needed in many different industries. We can only hope that his experience as a business owner will guide him in his decisions, and that the outcome of “merit-based” immigration and visa workers will be beneficial for employers and immigrants, alike.


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