Immigration goes backwards as economy moves forward

The stock market made a comeback and a few days ago became positive for the year. Even though the jobless rate is expected to rise to 10% by the end of the year and mortgage rates are expected to remain low too, the market has been so badly beaten that some recovery is probably a given.

At the same time America is shooting itself in the foot by delaying immigration even more and making people who are employed (employment based immgration requires that you be emplpoyed obviously) wait a decade or more to get their green cards. In my previous post I pointed out several ways immigration reform could boost employment ant the economy. And it seems that there cannot be a better time than now.

Fewer people want to come to the US now as is evident from the lack of applicants for H1 Visas this year as compared to the last few years.

However instead of moving forward, immigration dates continuously move backward at an alarming rate. In my previous post I posted the dates from the April Visa bulletin. The May bulletin made all EB-3 (skilled worker, jobs that require a bachelors degree) unavaileble until October. The Jun bulletin moved EB-2 (jobs that require a Masters degree or significant experience) back to 2000 for Indians. That means that there are some Indians with advanced degrees who have been waiting for nearly 10 years!

Looking at the trend of visa applications, it seems that there are more than half a million pending applications. It looks like things will get worse before they get better and America probably needs some kind of legislation to help legal employment based immigrants, the guys who pay taxes, spend etc. and in general help the economy.

How Immigration Reform Can Help the Economy

Maybe I should title this post as “How Immigration Laws are Helping Destroy the Economy” because that is what is happening. Americans don’t have jobs. Employment based immigrants who are here legally have jobs. Many of these people would like to leave their jobs to start businesses or to work for smaller companies. After all small business is what makes America America.

Unfortunately for most of these immigrants, the process of immigration is worse than it is for illegal immigrants. With the long lines and retrogression for Indians and Chinese it is often taking ten years for people to get Green cards. Take the current processing dates from the Visa Bulletin:

mainland born
1st C C C C C
2nd C 15FEB05 15FEB04 C C
3rd 01MAR03 01MAR03 01NOV01 01MAR03 01MAR03
01MAR01 01MAR01 01MAR01 01MAR01 01MAR01
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers U U U U U
5th C C C C C
Targeted Employ-ment Areas C C C C C
5th Pilot Progams U U U U U

What this means is that if you are from India, EB2 (these are people who are working in jobs that require Masters Degrees or higher or significant experience) then they are currently processing applications that are filed on or before 15-Feb 2004. About five years ago.

The worst hit here are Indians in the EB3 category (there are people with jobs requiring Bachelors degrees or higher). USCIS is processing cases filed before 01-NOV 2001. That is about eight years ago.

The date is a cutoff date and it means that you cannot even file for your last stage of immigration if you started after that date

Chinese also face the same problem but not as severly

It takes about two to three years to get to the point where you can file your application. So people have been waiting for 7 – 10 years currently. Also since Oct 2005, the problem has been getting worse each year. This means that most people cannot switch jobs (not even move to different departments in the same company) without restarting all over.

In my other blog, I’ve mentioned several Bills that can help this issue, one would be lifting country the county cap on Employment based immigration. Another is allowing people to file for all stages of their immigration even if the dates are not current.

This would have a significant impact on the American Economy because

  1. These highly qualified individuals would switch jobs, get promoted etc. making room for more jobs to open up. Currently many of these people are stuck in jobs that they are overqualified for because they are afraid to switch jobs and often even afraid to get promoted.
  2. Many of these people have the desire to start their own businesses or join small buinesses. USCIS is notorious for rejecting immigration applications from small businesses and you are not permitted to work on your own buiness in US without significant issues with Visas.
  3. A lot more immigrants would buy houses. I know from constantly hanging out in forums that many immigrants will not risk buying a house until they have a green card because they might be sent home at any time if their company goes bust, they are unemployed for few months or for some other reason because dealing with immigration is such a pain

Inspite of the fact that America is the land of Immigrants, the current state of people who wish to come here legally and are contributing to the economy (spending, taxes etc.) is worse than that of illegal immigrants and their issues are mostly ignored.

It is a common joke amongst us legal immigrants that our American born children will grow to be 21 and sponsor our green cards before we get our own if this trend continues.