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E.g., 03/04/2024
Unblocking the U.S. Immigration System: Executive Actions to Facilitate the Migration of Needed Workers
Policy Briefs
February 2023

Unblocking the U.S. Immigration System: Executive Actions to Facilitate the Migration of Needed Workers

With the U.S. unemployment rate hitting a 54-year low in January 2023 and more than 10 million job vacancies recorded monthly since mid-2021, the economy is hungry for workers. Yet longstanding bureaucratic inefficiencies in the legal immigration system and case backlogs that worsened dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic are preventing individuals eligible for immigration to the United States from filling some of the vacancies. They also are hampering conditions for temporary workers already in the country, some of whom are struggling to renew their status and work authorization. While legislative action is ultimately the solution to better align a legal immigration system that was last updated in 1990 with current and future U.S. economic imperatives, Congress appears highly unlikely to do so at present.

This policy brief outlines a range of actions the executive branch could take under current law to facilitate the migration of needed workers, retain immigrants already in the U.S. workforce, and ease challenges experienced by U.S. employers and their foreign-born workers. Many are proposals for small-bore changes to improve the efficiency of caseload processing at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department.

The brief is the first in a series of policy analyses and blueprints being generated under MPI’s Global Skills and Talent Initiative, which is exploring the role that immigration can play in addressing current and future workforce needs in rapidly evolving labor markets.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Efficiency Improvements at USCIS

3  Helping Work-Authorized Immigrants Remain Able to Work

4  Helping U.S.-Based Migrants Maintain their Legal Status

5  Ensuring Smooth Consular Processing

6  More and Better Communication

7  Broadening Pathways to the U.S. Labor Force

8  Conclusion