How the Future of American Immigration Can Impact the Economy

The Economic Effects of Immigration Policy Choices

The Economic Effects of Immigration Policy Choices

Providing new ideas and fresh perspectives, immigrants have always been a key part of America’s innovative spirit. A vast majority of economists and business leaders agree that immigration is a net positive for the U.S. economy. But, the system for welcoming these highly valuable workers is broken.

In August 2017, Business Roundtable commissioned an economic analysis of two different immigration policy scenarios. As you will see below, the path that America takes makes a significant difference to the future of workforce and economy.

The immigration policy landscape is constantly evolving. Where possible, we use the most up-to-date data and focus on the latest immigration issues.

Temporary High-Skilled Immigration

Balanced Reform Scenario

Temporary High-Skilled Workers

(H-1B Reform):

To address the shortage of high-skilled immigrant workers, the Balanced Reform scenario raises the annual limit on H-1B visas and exempts foreign-born, advanced-degree graduates of American universities from this cap.

Restriction Scenario

No H-1B Reform for Temporary
High-Skilled Workers:

Without H-1B reform, businesses will continue to experience a shortage of immigrant workers with highly sought after skills. Companies outside of the United States benefit from their expertise and education, giving competitor nations an advantage over the U.S.

Temporary High-Skilled Immigration

During the 2018 filing period, 190,098 applications were filed for just 85,000 slots.

In a recent Business Roundtable survey, over half of respondents believe that talent gaps are problematic or very problematic for both their company and their industry. Moreover, nearly all respondents indicated that talent gaps are at least somewhat problematic.

Green Card

Balanced Reform Scenario

Green Card Reform

The Balanced Reform scenario emphasizes streamlining the green card issuance process and addresses the millions of people who are currently caught in the application backlog. Exempting the spouses and children of employment-based green card recipients from the annual cap will expand the number of employment-based green cards awarded each year.

Restriction Scenario

No Green Card Reform

In the Enforcement Only scenario, workers and their families who have been contributing to the United States economy may be forced to leave, lowering American productivity, shrinking our economy, and limiting the opportunity for family members, especially women and future generations.

Green Card

Currently, millions of would-be green card recipients are stuck in a severe application backlog.

In November 2017, 4.1 million already approved immigrants were still awaiting visas across all categories.

Agricultural Immigration

Balanced Reform Scenario

Temporary Agricultural Workers
 (H-2A Reform):

Encouraging agricultural employers to hire farm workers through legal channels by incentivizing legal employment processes and enforcing limits on undocumented work would a net an increase in temporary visas for agricultural work.

Restriction Scenario

No Reform of H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers Reform

In the absence of H-2A reform, farmers across the country won’t have the agricultural workers needed to harvest crops. As a result, crops go unharvested and prices increase for consumers.

Agricultural Immigration

47 percent of the estimated 2 million agricultural workers are undocumented due to the expense and timeline of H-2A visas.

Nonagricultural Immigration

Balanced Reform Scenario

Temporary Nonagricultural Category for Lesser-Skilled Workers (H-2C Creation)

Create new H-2C visa category that admits up to 65,000 foreign guest workers to the United States for up to three years, thereby meeting demand for lesser-skilled, year-round nonagricultural labor such as elder-care workers and service industry employees.

Restriction Scenario

No Creation of H-2C Category for Temporary Nonagricultural Lesser-Skilled Workers

Without the new category, employers will continue to struggle to find enough qualified native-born workers to fill longer- term, lower-skilled positions even as demand for service positions rise year over year.

Nonagricultural Immigration

As of June 2018, there were 6.7 million job openings in the U.S. economy, but only 6.6 million unemployed workers.

Jobless claims are at all-time lows, and the unemployment rate suggests the economy is at or near full employment. These conditions suggest an environment where employers are struggling to find enough native-born workers to fill these roles. The U.S. economy will need an additional 2.4 million lesser-skilled workers by 2026.

Projected National Economic Impact

Balanced Reform Scenario

Restriction Scenario

GDP would expand by an extra 3.9 percent over 10 years, equivalent to an extra $831 billion compared to the baseline scenario

Economy (GDP)

GDP would contract by 3.0 percent over 10 years, equivalent to a loss of $640 billion compared to the baseline scenario.

8.4 million new jobs would be created over 10 years

1.2 million new jobs would be added in the first year and 5.6 million in the first five years


6.9 million jobs would be eliminated over 10 years

940,000 jobs would be lost in the first year and 3.9 million in the first five years

Inflation-adjusted personal incomes would increase by 2.3 percent over 10 years

This scenario would add an extra $254 to the median U.S. household income in first year alone

Wages (Median Income)

Inflation-adjusted personal incomes would decrease by 1.3 percent over 10 years

This scenario would reduce the median U.S. household income by $153 in the first year alone

Projected State-by-State Economic Impact

  Balanced Restriction
(first year)


  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, retreived August 20, 2018 from
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Situation Summary, retrieved August 20, 2018 from
  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Projections, 2016-2026, retrieved August 20, 2018 from