Should the U.S. Move in the Direction of a Point-Based Immigration System?


This timely paper examines the two models for the administration of employment-stream immigration: demand-driven and point system. In demand-driven systems, immigrants are admitted, subject to government regulation, based on an offer from employers. In a point-based immigration system, governments devise a preference system based on a number of factors, including labor-market needs, education and skills of the prospective immigrant, previous in-country work experience, language ability and other factors. Employer-driven systems tend to be more efficient, matching arriving immigrant workers with employers. Point systems have had problems with immigrants arriving based on points accumulated, then struggling in the job market. On the other hand, point systems — more successful in countries with strong executive powers over immigration — can quickly adjust to the changing needs of the workforce and are not dependent on years- or decades-long legislative processes. They are more transparent, and more likely to inspire confidence among members of the receiving society. Since their inception, point systems have evolved, and have incorporated elements of demand-driven systems. (A job offer from an employer, or previous in-country work experience, can add points to an immigrant’s score, for example.) The paper also discusses the evolving global marketplace for workers, and stresses that policy makers need not only to think about what benefits their immigration system will bring for their countries, but how they can attract and retain immigrants with needed skills. Immigrant-receiving countries and developing countries are increasingly competing for talented immigrants. A country with an immigration system that cannot quickly evolve in response to changing circumstances will be left behind in the race for top talent

Competing Approaches to Selecting Economic Immigrants: Points-Based vs. Demand-Driven Systems,
Migration Policy Institute, April 2019