The United States could be well on its way to following the global trend by adopting an immigration system that gives priority to the skilled and educated. An agreement reached by key Republican and Democrat senators on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill includes a bargain that will for the first time in US history give a preference to immigrants’ education and skill levels over family connections in deciding how to award green cards.

This is a big change for the American immigration system that has till now given higher recognition to family reunification over employment-based immigration. Immigration expert Arun Vakil said, “The American immigration system is broken. Both anti-immigration and pro-immigration groups are pulling it apart.

The point system is one option of a workable compromise. The emphasis is to facilitate employment-based immigration. The understanding is that this would help the US retain its competitive advantage by facilitating the entry of young people.”

Sanjay Puri, chairman of the US India Political Action Committee, a Washington-based lobbying group of Indian Americans, said, “This is a big step, a watershed, a relook at American immigration. Not only are they looking at skilled people but also those who will assimilate better.

The world has changed and America needs to be globally competitive hence the importance given to skills. America will continue to be the land of opportunity provided you can speak English and have marketable skills. From an India perspective, it is a win win win situation.”

US President George Bush has set August 2007 as deadline for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act. Immigration — illegal and legal — will be a major issue in the 2008 presidential elections. Mr Vakil said, “From now till the August deadline, we will see many proposals on immigration reform, after all the issue has become a political tool.” George Bush would like to see the Comprehensive immigration reform through as it would provide him the opportunity of a legacy in the domestic arena which has been marred by his Iraq policy.

While Mr Bush can hope to make history, the implications of a point- based system for India are serious. Robinder Sachdev of the US India Business Alliance said, “The compromise illustrates the seriousness with which American lawmakers view the future of their competitiveness and innovation industries. Source: EconomicTimes