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Trump Announces New Immigration Plan: uncertainty for those waiting to be processed

In the afternoon of May 16th, President Donald Trump delivered a speech unveiling his administration’s new plan for restructuring the American immigration system. The number of Green Cards issued is expected to remain at its current level, with the majority of future Green Cards being redistributed to young, skilled workers instead of family class immigrants.

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Parents, adult children and relatives of American Green Card recipients will no longer be eligible for family sponsored immigration if the new plan is brought into effect. Although missing some key details, the plan aims to transform the composition of those receiving American Green Cards. The absolute quota planned to stay at the same level of recent years, with approximately 1 million new permanent residents approved each year.

The proposed changes:

The proposed changes are set to redistribute future green cards issued, and restrict the criteria for those who will be eligible for family-class immigration. Currently the majority of Green Card recipients, 65%, gain American permanent residence through family sponsorship. Only 12% of these recipients are economic, high-skilled workers. 20% are admitted through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, set for termination under the new plan, or through humanitarian admission. The plan seeks to increase economic immigrants to account for 57% of the total permanent resident intake. This will mean young, economic immigrants will be the majority of those accepted to the country.

The family-based categories that are set for elimination include the following relatives of US residents: adults or married children, parents, and siblings. In 2017, there were 3.7 million individuals waiting to be processed in the categories now set for elimination. It is unclear what will happen to these applications, many of whom have been in processing for years, if the new plan is brought into effect. They may continue to be processed, but there is the possibility that the backlog could simply be terminated.

The May 16th plan will prioritize candidates who are financially self-sufficient and can prove high levels of education, English-proficiency and work experience. Future Green Card recipients would be required to pass a English language and American civics test as the first phase of the application process.

A “merit-based, high security plan”:

In his Thursday address, President Donald Trump referenced the Canadian immigration system three times as an example of successful economic immigration which the American system is trying to model. The new plan is being touted by the President’s administration as “merit-based”, intended to describe that those selected will be ranked using a points-based system similar to the Canadian Comprehensive Ranking System. This scoring will assign points based on language, education and work experience.

Such system follows in the footsteps of countries like Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, who each recently altered their programs to prioritize young, high-skilled, economic applicants. In Canada, 57% of permanent residents are economic, and immigration streams devoted to attracting young, skilled workers offer the fastest and most efficient routes for successful immigration to Canada.

Canadian and American Immigration: how the two compare

While the latest American immigration plan proposes to keep the number of Green Cards issued at the current level, imposing restrictions to the U.S. immigration system has been emblematic of the Trump administration. The elimination of family categories who will no longer be eligible for qualification under the new plan will mean a reduction in the number of Green cards issued from over one million to 638,000 in its first year.

Many have been quick to condemn Trump’s newly released plan, describing the changes as dead on arrival. The plan has made no mention of how to support the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country, nor proposes any legal status for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a group of 800,000 known as Dreamers. These young people were protected under an Obama-era legislation that has since been in limbo.

Restrictions to the American temporary working visa, the H-1B, have been increasing since 2016. The visa has experienced longer delays, greater denials and threats to repeal authorization that allows spouses of visa holders to work in America. Slashes to the program make it harder and longer for temporary workers to earn permanent residence status in the U.S.

While American administration continues to restrict who can enter the United States and how, Canada has created its fastest and most efficient immigration program yet. Canada recently announced an ambitious plan to welcome more than one million newcomers to the country in the next three years, the highest yearly quotas in Canadian history. The current government prioritizes the entry of skilled workers, while also emphasizing family reunification.

Whether the new American system will be realized to the extent described by the President Thursday remains to be seen. It is not a surprise that more countries may move towards immigration programs similar to Canada’s with the recent success the country has experienced. If immigration to Canada has caught your interest, now remains the best time to begin an application!

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