Proposed US reforms to a merit-based system seems as a big plus for skilled migrants

Experts said killed workers could be the big winners from US President Donald Trump’s immigration reforms, as Chinese waiting to hear about green cards welcomed the proposed changes. President Trump announced in his state-of-the-union address on Tuesday that he planned to end the US visa lottery system as well as “chain migration”, where immigrants can sponsor relatives to live in the United States.

Rather than the visa lottery system that “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people”, it was time for the US to move towards a “merit-based immigration system – one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country”, President Trump said. He also moved to end “chain migration”, which he described as allowing “a single immigrant [to] bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives”.

The United States issued 35,350 immigrant visas last year for people from mainland China, based on applications made from outside the US, according to US state department data. The number from Hong Kong was 1,128. They were either people who went through the lengthy application process to join a relative who was already a US citizen or those who were moving to the US for employment.

Chinese immigrants are the third-largest foreign-born group in the United States, after Mexicans and Indians. Unlike in the 19th century, Chinese immigrants arriving post-1965 are predominantly skilled. China is now the principal source of foreign students enrolled in US higher education, and its nationals receive the second-largest number of employer-sponsored H-1B temporary visas, after India. Chinese immigrants are enrolled in college and graduate school at a rate more than twice that of immigrants overall (15 percent, compared to 7 percent). Chinese nationals are also overrepresented in applications for the EB-5 investor visa program, accounting for 90 percent of applicants in fiscal year (FY) 2015.

The United States is the top destination for Chinese immigrants, accounting for 22 percent of the nearly 11 million Chinese living outside of China, according to mid-2015 estimates by the United Nations Population Division. Other popular destinations include Canada (939,000), South Korea (751,000), Japan (652,000), Australia (547,000), and Singapore (511,000).