Does France need immigration reform?

Immigration Reform: America's Absurd Visa Problems

Amanda Hill * says she sometimes feels like a modern slave. It has been around a year since the 32-year-old Englishwoman moved to New York for a management job at a renowned PR agency. "Since then, there has not been a day that I have not regretted the decision," says Hill. “I hate my job.” Her boss is an idiot, the agency's clients are terrible and her employees have left the company in droves. It was difficult to find new employees because word got around that the agency was going downhill. Nobody wants to work for the company. "I'm just trapped here," says Hill in frustration.

The Englishwoman has committed to stay with the agency for at least three years. Otherwise, she would have to repay her moving costs to her employer. The equivalent of around 10,000 euros, "and I just don't have that." A few weeks ago, Hill thought he had found the solution to her problem. A well-known lobbying agency campaigned aggressively for her and was determined to hire Hill. "They would even pay the EUR 10,000 transfer fee to my employer for this."

Everything seemed perfect until she realized that her visa was not transferable to the new employer. And getting a new visa is literally a lottery win.

Hill is like thousands upon thousands of non-US citizens every year: They have found their dream job in America and the potential employer is desperate to hire them, but the employment contract is doomed to fail. Because there are simply too few visas for skilled workers and, if at all, the work permit can only be obtained through a lengthy and often expensive process.

A shortage of skilled workers endangers economic growth

US President Barack Obama promised business years ago that he would solve this problem. The shortage of skilled workers is becoming an increasingly pressing problem in many industries, but especially in Silicon Valley. Economic growth, jobs and tax revenues are lost because US companies cannot find suitable engineers, programmers or other highly qualified professionals. Some companies are even opening branches in Canada because the immigration regulations across the Canadian border are a lot more lax.

Obama's new reform of immigration laws is viewed by business organizations as disappointing. Last week, the US president announced a reform of immigration law in the US. He lacks the necessary majority in Congress for a comprehensive law. With a so-called “Executive Order”, however, Obama single-handedly decreed that around five million immigrants should be given permanent right to stay.

The vast majority of these people are illegal immigrants who have lived in hiding in the country for years. Obama said he also wanted to improve the situation of highly qualified foreigners who want to work in the US but have so far failed because of the bureaucratic hurdles.

The US economy, so the White House reckons, the change in law will bring 0.4 to 0.9 percent additional growth in ten years. However, it is precisely this economy that questions the White House numbers.

Reform falls short