The State of Immigration | Business Roundtable


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Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote a thriving economy and expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy.

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The State of Immigration U.S. is Far Behind in the Race for Global Talent

Most Americans agree that the future of the U.S. economy depends on the ability of its businesses to compete globally. One of the key factors that allow U.S. employers to grow their businesses and create new jobs is their ability to recruit and retain talent from other countries. How well does the current U.S. employment-based immigration system support this goal?  Based on original research and analysis, Business Roundtable found that the United States falls short when compared to other advanced economies.

How Does the U.S. Stack Up?

Based on a comprehensive examination of 10 advanced economies to identify and evaluate the best immigration policies to promote economic growth, the United States ranked 9th out of 10 competitor countries, ahead of only Japan, a country historically closed to outsiders. This analysis found that America’s near-bottom ranking among major advanced economies is due to U.S. laws and regulations that impose unrealistic numerical limits and excessive bureaucratic rules on hiring workers that the country’s economy needs. 

Select a country on the map to compare it to the United States.

United States

United Statesoverall score2.3

The low annual limits on temporary visas (H-1B) and employment-based green cards for high-skilled foreign nationals, along with high denial rates for intracompany transfers and the lack of visas for both immigrant entrepreneurs and year-round lower-skilled workers, make U.S. immigration policies “mostly unfavorable” to economic growth when compared to other advanced economies.

View United States Profile

Germanyoverall score4.4

No quotas on high-skilled temporary visas (including the EU Blue Card); easy policies on transferring personnel; the ability for individuals to gain permanent residence in a reasonable time; strong policies on retaining international students and entrepreneurs; and most important, access to up to 500 million EU residents who can work without immigration processing make Germany’s immigration policies among the world’s most favorable for economic growth.

View Germany Profile

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Key Policy Recommendations

Increase the number of H-1B visas and exempting from the annual cap H-1B workers who have degrees in needed fields from U.S. universities.

Allow individuals with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. universities to immediately qualify for a green card to work and live in the United States.

A high percentage of STEM graduate students at U.S. universities are foreign born, and America would benefit from encouraging them to stay and work here.

Reduce the employment-based green card backlog by “recapturing” unused visas caused by processing delays from prior fiscal years, exempting the dependents of those sponsored from counting against the annual quota and eliminating the per-country limit.

Employers often must wait several months to hire outstanding individuals. Further, foreign-born scientists and many engineers and researchers wait a decade or more just to receive a green card.

Maintain flexibility in the high-skilled visa categories by avoiding overly bureaucratic rules that inhibit access to skilled workers.

Grant highly educated individuals more flexibility for themselves and their spouses.

Methods include:

  • Allowing H-1B visa holders to move between employers more easily;
  • Allowing all spouses of H-1B visa holders to work;
  • Permitting high-skilled visa holders to renew their visas from within the United States, subject to appropriate security precautions; and
  • Enabling foreign students to pursue a green card while on a student visa.

Create a new visa classification for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Those who are prepared to invest in the United States and are contractually bound to employ Americans are by definition job creators and should be welcomed.

Create a new visa classification for long-term, nonseasonal workers.

Such workers would be protected under U.S. employment laws and have “portability,” meaning they could leave to work for any employer that complies with the requirements of the program. The annual limit on less-skilled workers should fluctuate based on market forces, and workers should be able to earn green cards if they succeed in America.

Expand the current H-2B temporary visa program for seasonal workers to meet current demand.

Create a new temporary agricultural worker visa program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would allow workers to move easily among employers.

Immigrants living in the United States illegally who have passed appropriate background checks, have worked in agriculture and continue to do so could become eligible for a green card based on their work in that industry.

About the Report

Business Roundtable selected the evaluated countries based on five criteria:

1. Worldwide university rankings;
2. Per-capita income;
3. Gross domestic product growth rate;
4. Net migration rate; and
5. Research and development investment.

After comparing each advanced economy relative to the five criteria, the top 10 countries (including the United States) were selected for the study: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (U.K.). Not coincidentally, these are the countries with which the United States competes most for foreign talent, particularly in science and technology fields.

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