E.g., 07/29/2014
E.g., 07/29/2014

The Role of Immigration in Fostering Competitiveness in the United States

June 2011

The Role of Immigration in Fostering Competitiveness in the United States

Immigration policy is an indispensable and strategic factor in economic growth and prosperity, contributing to innovation, technological progress, and competitiveness.  However, while aspects of the U.S. immigration system facilitate newcomers’ contributions to economic growth and competitiveness, others undermine them. Significant reforms are needed to enhance the job-creating power of U.S. employers and strengthen the system’s ability to select effectively from the large pool of foreign workers.

One of the greatest assets of the U.S. immigration system is employer-driven selection, which allows effective identification of sought-after workers, and grants the most talented priority to gain permanent residency. However, employment-based immigration is a small proportion of permanent immigration and U.S. policy has proved inflexible to changing circumstances, preventing numerical limits on visa distribution from shifting with demand. Temporary-to-permanent work-visa programs are the majority of employment-based immigration, but are inefficient and require a complicated administrative process.

The recent economic crisis lessened some problems arising from the constrained, undifferentiated supply of work visas by reducing demand. Fixing the system’s flaws, however, may be difficult, and requires substantial reforms and greater flexibility. Strategies include a streamlined process to enable temporary visa holders to become permanent residents, greater differentiation at skilled and highly skilled levels, and flexible numerical limits to avoid stampedes for visas and the exhaustion of visa limits in years of high demand.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Immigration and Economic Prosperity

A. In What Ways Does Immigration Affect the Economy?

B. Implications for Immigration Policy

III. Immigration to the United States: Policies and Flows

A. Exceptionally Skilled Immigrants — the “Most Talented"

B. Policies toward the Skilled and Highly Skilled

C. International Students and Skilled Immigration

D. Less-Skilled or Low-Wage Immigration

IV. Two Examples of Immigrants’ Economic Role: Health Care and Information Technology

A. Health Care

B. Information Technology

V. Conclusion