The US Immigration System: The Areas for Improvement
The US immigration system is set in its ways, with much room for improvement. Check out some flaws and their possible solutions.
The US welcomes hundreds of thousands of people annually. Most of these people are sponsored by employers and family members. In contrast, a minority is either welcomed into the country through employment-based green cardsor because they must seek asylum in a safer country for one reason or another. Choose IBP Immigration Law if you want to streamline your journey to residency and citizenship in the United States.
The US immigration system is pivotal in shaping the nation’s demographic landscape and contributing to its economic, cultural, and social growth. You’d think a system that performs this important function wouldn’t have laws dating back to the 1990s, but that is the state of affairs in the legal immigration system.
Outdated laws are only a small factor in a system marred with shortcomings that hinder its effectiveness and fairness.
Today’s blog comprehensively reviews the US immigration system, particularly its problems and potential solutions.
The Problem: An Inherently Drawn Out and Complex Process
One of the most pressing issues contributing to our current green card backlog is the lengthy and intricate motions applicants are asked to undergo. The wait time for visa approvals is 5-7 working days, with two additional days for delivery.
Green card and citizenship applicants are subjected to further wait times, adding to their frustration, anxiety, uncertainty, and insecurity.
The complex bureaucratic procedures deter eligible candidates from pursuing legal pathways to immigration, and many are forced to enter the country through unauthorized means. We already know the detention conditions for undocumented immigrants, but there wouldn’t be a need to detain them if the system provided more paths towards lawful immigration.
The Solution: Streamlining the Process
There are many avenues to streamline family- and employee-based immigration and reduce the green card backlog, killing two birds with one proverbial stone.
The immigration system could accelerate document processing by using technology. Faster communication between one department and another could also cut the application time by half.
It also bears noting that the lack of funding exacerbated the immigration caseload after the pandemic. USCIS is funded by applicants and petitioners, not by taxpayers. Unfortunately, it has yet to reflect on the caseload, which remains as severe as ever.
The Problem: Decades-Long Wait Times for Family-based Immigration Applicants
Green card holders sponsoring family members, particularly unmarried children, from heavily populated countries have been in the backlog since as far back as 2001. The separation has resulted in missed milestones and even led to a family member’s death from the petitioner or beneficiary’s side before reuniting with their loved ones.
The Solution: Revise the Policies
There’s an urgent need to revisit family-based immigration policies, starting with expanding annual visa quotas for these categories. Addressing the annual limits individually for different countries or removing them altogether could alleviate the backlog. It would also allow families to reunite sooner.
The Problem: The Stringent Eligibility Criteria for Family-based Immigration
The current US immigration system prioritizes immediate relatives—spouse, minor child, or parent—of US citizens.
Apart from immediate relatives, who remain the priority, the remaining family-based immigration applicants are divided into the following preference categories:
- First Preference (F1): The unmarried children of US citizens who are 21 or above;
- Second Preference (F2A): Spouses and the minor, unmarried children of lawful permanent residents;
- Second Preference (F2B): Unmarried children of lawful permanent residents aged 21 or above;
- Third Preference (F3): Married children of US citizens;
- Fourth Preference (F4): Siblings of US citizens, with the latter being 21 or above.
The problem with the above list is obvious: If you aren’t directly related to a permanent resident or US citizen, you don’t qualify for a green card through family.
The Solution: Expanding the Definition of Family-based Immigration
Once the backlog issue is resolved, it should be easier to expand what qualifies as “family” in the US immigration system. It should reflect the evolving nature of familial relationships in modern society.
At the very least, family-based immigration should bring extended family members into the fold. Interpretations of “family” can be integrated into the definition much later.
The Problem: The Limitations of the H-1B Visa Program
The H-1B Program is a special immigration category reserved for highly-skilled foreign workers. It has faced criticism for its limitations and abuse. Some instances include:
- Underpaying workers;
- Laying off local workers to hire underpaid non-American staff;
- Forcing local workers to train their replacements.
Even without the abovementioned points, the program ties H-1B visa holders to their sponsoring employers, creating a power dynamic that enables worker exploitation and limited job mobility.
To make matters worse, the annual cap on H-1B visas is often exhausted within days, making it a challenging route for deserving applicants.
The Solution: Redressing the Power Imbalance
Enhancing the H-1B visa program’s integrity involves exploring avenues for reducing employer dependence. Allowing visa holders greater job mobility and the freedom to switch employers without jeopardizing their status would empower foreign workers and prevent exploitation.
On the US workers’ end, the system could introduce a reward program for foreign workers, incentivizing them to report forced training and unfair dismissals.
Lastly, revising the cap allocation system to prioritize high-demand industries instead of putting a one-size-fits-all limit on everything and reducing dependency on the lottery system could make the program more effective.
The Problem: The Shortcomings of the Diversity Visa Lottery
The Diversity Visa, or DV, Lottery program promotes diversity and provides opportunities for individuals from underrepresented countries. However, it has faced criticism for its randomness and potential security risks.
Even more concerning is the fact that a program that claims to be diverse excludes applicants from certain countries because the US saw an influx of more than 50,000 natives in the last five years from these nations.
While the exclusion intends to give individuals from other countries a higher chance of getting a green card and increase diversity, it doesn’t account for individual populations or the socioeconomic conditions that might force individuals to flee their homeland.
The Solution: Make Everything Less Random
Strengthening the DV program could address the criticism that it is too random. It could involve implementing rigorous security checks and vetting procedures to ensure that only eligible and legitimate applicants are selected.
Additionally, considering a point-based system that evaluates an applicant’s skills, education, language proficiency, and other factors could enhance the program’s effectiveness while maintaining its diversity-focused goals.
As for excluding countries from participating in the DV program, addressing the quota issue could solve that problem. If more individuals are granted green cards through family and employers, they won’t have to consider alternate avenues like these programs.
The Problem: Lack of Clear Pathways for Undocumented Immigrants
The decline in the unauthorized immigrant population does not mean the US immigration system has started providing undocumented immigrants more pathways to citizenship. It just indicates stringent measures at the borders.
The absence of clear pathways for undocumented immigrants to adjust their status and contribute legally to society remains a significant drawback of the US immigration system. This situation doesn’t always lead to a happy resolution, as shown in the movies and TV shows.
In the real world, it creates vulnerable populations susceptible to exploitation and limited access to basic rights and resources.
The Solution: Creating a Path to Citizenship
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has been working hard to advocate for a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants and those without permanent status.
Most of these immigrants have established roots in the US, have no criminal record, and contribute positively to their communities.
Creating paths to legalization would acknowledge undocumented immigrants’ economic and social contributions and align with the principles of fairness and compassion.
It would also reflect the diversity-leaning approach the US immigration system has taken recently.
The Problem: Failure to Retain International Graduates
Did you know that Canada offers postgraduate work visas to international graduates? Did you know these permits could be turned into permanent residency visas? Australia and the UK also provide many pathways for students to stay and work in their countries long after their students are supposed to have expired.
Conversely, the US lacks a clear pathway for students to continue staying and start working in the country after graduation. As a result, our country loses out on the talent we helped cultivate with our education system.
The Solution: Create Postgraduate Work Opportunities
The first and most obvious solution to this problem is implementing a clear pathway from student visas to work visas for international graduates.
The second is creating postgraduate work opportunities for these students. The US immigration system could extend Optional Practical Training (OPT) periods to all student visa types. The US currently reserves this opportunity for F-1 students.
The third option could be incentivizing employers to hire international graduates so they would be highly motivated to keep them within the US.
The Problem: Limited Employment-based Immigration Quotas and Categories
The US immigration system might end up issuing 197,000 work visas this year. While this sounds like a lot, it’s not much in the global context.
The system offers limited visa quotas and categories, often failing to accommodate the diverse skill sets required by the evolving job market. The allocation of visas under these constraints can lead to a backlog of applications and a struggle for employers to secure the talent they need.
The Solution: Adjusting Visa Quotas to Market Demands
Word on the street is that the immigration system regularly assesses green card stats for different countries to ensure diversity.
Similar regular assessments of labor market needs can inform adjustments to visa allocations for various skill levels and industries. By reflecting the demand for specific skills, the system can prevent shortages and align with the dynamic nature of the job market.
Although categories like EB-1 extraordinary ability visa and EB-3 skilled worker visa help distinguish employees, they are limited by quota constraints. It would be nice to have separate quotas for these categories to better meet market demands in the future.
The Problem: Lack of Pathways for Low-Skilled Workers
The current US immigration system favors high-skilled immigrants, making low-skilled workers a third preference for employment-based immigration. This leaves them with limited pathways for legal entry. This discrepancy often results in a reliance on unauthorized labor, leading to exploitation and unfair treatment of vulnerable workers.
The lack of avenues for workers who don’t have a college degree also creates a vacuum in our low-paying, physically demanding industries where understaffing has reached an all-time low.
The Solution: Raising Quotas for Low-Skilled Worker Visas
It’s time for archaic laws that limit the entry of low-skilled workers in the US to give way to amendments and new bills. Revamping the visa system for such immigrants is the need of the hour.
The US immigration system can create new visa categories or expand existing ones to meet the demand for essential low-skilled labor. The increase in legal pathways would prevent the exploitation of undocumented workers and increase the scrutiny of the treatment and wages of these labor workforces.
Overcome Every Hurdle with Our Immigration Law Consultations
The US immigration system has its heart in the right place. It prioritizes the ideals of opportunity and inclusion but faces an array of shortcomings that need urgent attention. By addressing issues such as the lack of clear pathways for undocumented immigrants and limited quotas, policymakers can work towards a more just, efficient, and humane immigration system.
If you are one of the rare few who qualify for a green card through family, employment, or any other means, find the right legal assistance with our immigration attorneys, who have tackled cases related to family, employment, humanitarian immigration, and investor visa programs.
Get in touch for inquiries and further assistance regarding our legal services.