Policy: Economy

US should adopt Canada's immigration system

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Education,Diana Furchtgott Roth,Columnists,Immigration,Jobs,United States,Canada,Economy,Border Security,Analysis

VANCOUVER — America needs a Canadian top corporate tax rate (15 percent instead of 35 percent), a Canadian level of debt (35 percent of GDP, instead of the U.S. rate of 73 percent), and a Canadian immigration policy.

To enter Canada through its federal skilled worker program, applicants are ranked on a points system. One hundred points are possible, and 67 are required to get an entry visa.

Included are English and French language skills (28 possible points), education (25 points), experience (15 points), adaptability (10 points), age (12 points), and job offers (10 points).

In contrast, U.S. H-1B temporary visas for new skilled immigrant workers, limited to 85,000 annually, do not meet demand. Acquiring permanent residency (a green card) is a lengthy and potentially costly process. Immigrant talent is frequently forced to leave the United States. Many go to Canada.

In 2013, the cap for H-1B visas was reached within the first week of the April 1 filing date. In 1999, Congress temporarily raised the quota to 115,000, and again to 195,000 in 2001, a number that did not exceed demand, but the quota reverted to 65,000 (plus 20,000 awarded for recipients of U.S. advanced degrees) in 2004.

Those with education and experience who want to move to Canada have to pass an English test and show that they have enough money to support themselves for the first several months.

The Canadian government charges a fee of approximately $2,900 for two people, leading to a permanent immigration visa. In the United States, an H1-B visa is a 3-year temporary visa.

In the United States, the spouse of an H1-B visa holder cannot legally work. In Canada, there is no limit on the right to work for both spouses in the Canadian skilled migrants program.

Many talented people who want to settle in the United States have extensive graduate training in valuable fields such as engineering, mathematics, or the sciences.

In fiscal year 2012, fewer than five percent of those who obtained U.S. permanent resident status were professionals with advanced degrees, compared to over nine percent of those granted permanent resident status in Canada.

The Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 June 27, 2013, but it would not achieve the simplicity of the Canadian system. Getting a visa would still be time-consuming and bureaucratic.

An immigration policy focused on increasing economic growth would seek ways to admit more immigrants with the advanced education levels desired by domestic employers.

One simple way to reform immigration policy is for Congress to keep the same system we have now, but issue more employment-based visas, both to skilled and unskilled workers. Congress could also endorse the sale of visas or auction them off to raise revenue at the outset of the process.

Immigrants want to come to the United States because they see opportunity, gaps in our economy that they have the skills to fill. Instead, many are coming to Canada. We are losing the race for talent, and it is a sad loss.

DIANA FURCHTGOTT-ROTH, a Washington Examiner columnist and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. She can be reached at dfr@manhattan-institute.org.
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