Aligning Temporary Immigration Visas with U.S. Labor Market Needs: The Case for a New System of Provisional Visas
This report argues that the rigid U.S. visa system set in place by the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) is no longer aligned with the employment-based immigration needs of the U.S. economy and, as a result, has forced employers to meet labor market demands by sponsoring temporary work visa holders who often fill long-term jobs as de facto permanent residents. In response, authors recommend creating a new visa stream called provisional visas, which would sync visa policies with the way in which labor markets work in practice, and bridge temporary and permanent employment-based admissions to the United States in a predictable and transparent way.
The provisional visa concept seeks to rectify the two primary flaws of the existing system—restrictions on worker mobility, which undermines wage growth, working conditions, and upward mobility for both immigrant and U.S. workers; and uncertainty in the transition from temporary to permanent resident status for foreign workers, which deters immigrant integration, inhibits long-term investment in human capital, and threatens U.S. economic growth and global competitiveness relative to countries offering more competitive immigration benefits.
The authors make the case that their proposed system—by consolidating existing visa categories, reserving temporary visas for genuinely short-term jobs, streamlining the path to permanent residency, expanding temporary-to-permanent status eligibility to less-skilled workers, and allowing for visa portability—could successfully balance competing policy goals and represent a win-win compromise for virtually every stakeholder in the immigration debate.
II. Background: The Traditional Goals of U.S. Immigration Policy
III. How the Current System Works
IV. The Limitations of the Current System
V. Provisional Visas: Matching Employment-Based Visas to Labor Market Reality
VI. The Advantages of a Provisional Visa Program