Time for Change

Immigration has created serious problems for the United States but not for the reasons that most Americans identify: not because huge numbers of undocumented folks are invading our country and stealing jobs, not because they are abusing our welfare system, not because they don’t pay taxes and not because they commit crimes with abandon. Study after study confirms that the vast majority of “illegal immigrants” lay low. They pay taxes, don’t request government benefits and work hard, usually at jobs that American workers refuse to do. The serious problems created by immigration relate to restrictions that now burden our immigration system, causing many law-abiding, intelligent and well-educated foreign citizens to reject the United States. To be effective, immigration reform must ease these restrictions.

As an example, United States colleges and universities happily enroll foreign students who pay sky-high, out-of-state tuition. After providing these eager and often, very successful, students with a first-class education, we then make it difficult for them to remain in the United States and contribute to our economy. Instead, they take their brains and creativity back to their home countries where they energize and empower the competitors of U. S. companies.

The immigration system and the procedures for making it work are obsolete and dysfunctional. Two of the most acute problems relate to procedures that are too complex for the system to handle efficiently and a demand for visas that far exceeds supply. The H-1B process is impacted by both of these problems. Employers who want to hire top foreign graduates generally would apply for H-1B status for these graduates. That entails filing applications with the United States Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security attesting that the employer will pay, at a minimum, the prevailing wage to the foreign worker, and that the hiring of the foreign worker will not adversely affect U.S. workers similarly employed. The employer must also demonstrate that the foreign graduate qualifies for the H-1B category. Employers seeking H-1B status for new graduates must file several months in advance of when employment is planned to begin. If H-1B documents are not filed early enough, employers may navigate all of the pre-filing hurdles only to be advised that visas are unavailable. For the last several years, the annual cap on H-1B visas has been reached even before the fiscal year begins and visas become available. As a result of the recession, the demand for employment-based visas has lessened but still remains a problem.

Family-based immigration is afflicted with the supply-demand problem, as well. Close family members of United States citizens and permanent residents often wait for years before a visa becomes available and they are able to immigrate.

There is no reason for procedures in some visa categories, including H-1B, to be as involved as they are; nor is there any reason to severely limit the number of visas in most categories. Increasing visa availability and simplifying visa application procedures for certain categories of temporary and permanent foreign citizens would boost our economy’s productivity and ease the strain on government, which cannot effectively manage the immigration system now in place. If comprehensive immigration reform is, indeed, on the horizon, loosening certain current provisions is critical to success.

This article should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult an immigration attorney for advice specific to your situation.