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Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.

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The State of ImmigrationUnited States

Excluding Workers Who Would Contribute to the American Economy

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.

Given the competitive nature of business and the globalization of markets in finance, technology, services and manufacturing, access to high-skilled talent has never been more vital. Unfortunately, the United States of America, dubbed “A Nation of Immigrants” by President John F. Kennedy, has developed immigration policies that make it difficult both for businesses — and the talented individuals they seek to employ — to thrive.

America has a litany of immigration problems that affect economic competition:

  • The supply of H-1B visas for high-skilled foreign nationals has been exhausted every year for more than a decade due to low annual quotas, which prevent employers from hiring individuals that can help them grow and innovate inside the United States.
  • Long waits for employment-based green cards — six to 10 years or longer for many high-skilled immigrants — discourage outstanding individuals, including international students who have graduated from U.S. universities, from building successful careers in America.
  • High denial rates for intracompany transferees, something not witnessed by employers in other advanced economies, make completing projects and building product and service teams more difficult in the United States.
  • The lack of legal visas for year-round, lower-skilled workers prevents employers from accessing a critical workforce.
  • The absence of a true entrepreneur visa encourages foreigners with great ideas and access to venture capital to pursue startup opportunities in other nations.

Policymakers in Washington, D.C., should remove the many obstacles that prevent U.S. companies from attracting talented individuals from around the world.

Score Breakdown by Category

Attracting Foreign Entrepreneurs
Attracting Foreign Entrepreneurs
1.5 (Ranked 10th out of 10)

No genuine immigration category exists for entrepreneurs. Immigrants start businesses in the United States typically only after years of waiting to become family- or employer-sponsored immigrants, not through a visa designed for foreign entrepreneurs. This lack of a visa encourages foreigners with ideas and the ability to attract capital to pursue startup opportunities in other nations when possible.

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Hiring High-Skilled Foreign Nationals
Hiring High-Skilled Foreign Nationals
2.0 (Ranked 9th out of 10)

More than half of applicants for H-1B visas each year are denied the opportunity to work due to the low H-1B quota.

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Hiring Lower-Skilled Workers
Hiring Lower-Skilled Workers
1.5 (Ranked 9th out of 10)

No temporary visa category exists for full-year jobs for lower-skilled workers. The seasonal work visa for agriculture (H-2A) is considered bureaucratic, and the seasonal visa for nonagricultural work (H-2B) is considered bureaucratic and carries a low annual quota.

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Lawful Permanent Residence For High-Skilled Workers
Lawful Permanent Residence For High-Skilled Workers
2.5 (Ranked 9th out of 10)

Low quotas and country limits on sponsoring employment-based immigrants for permanent residence (green cards) lead to waits of six to 10 years or longer and great uncertainty for many applicants. Employer costs to sponsor an individual can exceed $50,000.

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Retention of International Students Postgraduation
Retention of International Students Postgraduation
3.0 (Ranked 9th out of 10)

Optional Practical Training provides an opportunity for international students to work short term postgraduation, particularly for those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. However, the lack of H-1B visas and long waits for employment-based green cards limit the opportunities for international students to make their careers in the United States.

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Transferring High-Skilled Employees Across Borders
Transferring High-Skilled Employees Across Borders
3.0 (Ranked 9th out of 10)

Over the past five years transferring high-skilled employees from abroad into the United States has become more difficult, especially transferring those with “specialized knowledge.” Denial rates reached 34 percent in FY 2013.

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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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