Green Card Backlog a Deterrent for Economic Success

Green Card Backlog

Many argue that the current economic crisis could be considerably helped by addressing certain aspects of immigration more proactively. Immigrants are more likely to start businesses, more likely to earn an advanced degree, and more likely to become educated in valuable skills and fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There are only 205,000 visas available every year for foreign employees. 140,000 come from “employment-based” or EB visas. Most of these are very specific. For example, the EB-1, of which there are 40,000 available every year, are only for business executives and other high-ranking corporate representatives. The EB-5 visa is only given to wealthy foreign nationals who commit a $1 million investment into the U.S. economy. 65,000 H-1B visas are given to skilled foreign workers and are quickly snapped up by the health care and technology industries. Not a year goes by that all of these visas are not accounted for and while the tech industry cries out that there isn’t enough to fill their labor demands, Republicans propose that the cap be lowered.

Another problem is that there are about half a million green cards currently stuck on backlog. If a country has a high level of immigration to the U.S., such as Mexico, China, and India, those waiting for a green card from those countries must wait, sometimes for as long as 20 years. The State Department wants to distribute the nationality of immigrants as evenly as possible across the world spectrum. However, as China and India are the two most populous countries in the world and Mexico traditionally produces most of America’s immigrants, they are often last in line to get a green card, resulting in a high level of illegal immigration and, more importantly, stunting the economic growth of the United States. The U.S. is in a labor shortage on both ends of the skilled scale. Tech and health care are short on skilled workers and with the passage of mandatory E-Verify laws (a federal database employers use to check the immigration status and employment eligibility of employees), farmers are reporting drastic shortages of farm workers.

Addressing these backlogs is crucial to address these shortages and help the U.S. economy come out of its painfully sluggish state. Immigration is the root cause of America’s success and the political trend of restricting it, both legal and illegal, is detrimental to America’s ability to innovate and compete with foreign nations with more attractive immigration policies, particularly in terms of tech firms. Many foreign students come to be educated in the U.S. and promptly upon graduation, they are forced to return to their home countries where they open or join competing tech firms. Advocates of a more liberal employment immigration system have suggested eliminating the per country green card limit, raising the number of EB visa and H-1B visas available every year and have even suggested a visa rollover program that allows all visas not used in a particular year to be available in the next year. The truth is, something needs to happen and immigration is an easy answer, as long as the U.S. remains a place where people want to live.