One of our specialties here at Nestmann is helping US citizens acquire legal residency in other countries.
Frankly, we consider getting a second residency almost a no-brainer. It gives our clients the ability to relocate to another country if political, economic, or security conditions in their home country deteriorate.
Over the years, we’ve investigated dozens of countries as possibilities for second residency. The ones we favor are those that have a transparent and easily accessible path to permanent residency. One of our top picks is Panama, because being able to prove a modest pension income of $1,000 per month, along with a clean criminal record, gives you permanent residency in the country.
But occasionally, we receive inquiries from non-US clients interested in immigrating to the United States. And upon review of the options for legal residency in America, we’ve never found a more dysfunctional system.
In particular, America’s immigration system isn’t designed to meet the needs of our economy. Instead, US immigration law and policy gives relatives of current citizens or residents priority, along with a generous dose of favoritism to citizens of certain countries, such as Afghanistan, Cameroon, Myanmar, Ukraine and Venezuela. It’s hard to imagine a system less in tune with economic realities.
At the same time, immigration policy is one of the most divisive issues in the United States. And it’s understandable that Americans are concerned. There’s been a 500% increase in illegal entry to the United States in the past five years. Indeed, since the Biden administration took office in January 2021, an estimated two million illegal migrants have entered the country.
A poll taken just before the November Midterms found that most American voters want significant changes made to border security policies and immigration laws. Indeed, nearly 30% of voters favor an immediate closure of US borders to both legal and illegal migrants.
The rapidly rising number of illegal migrants to the United States is undoubtedly a crisis. But we suggest everyone of all political persuasions step back to reconsider the immigration question.
Frankly, we believe the fact that people want to migrate to the United States is a good thing. America is perceived as a land of opportunity where the rule of law applies. As my eighth-grade history teacher remarked at the height of the Cold War, “How many people do you think want to emigrate from the United States to the Soviet Union”?
The fact that the United States has this role leads to three separate questions that our lawmakers must address:
How many people should be allowed to enter the United States each year?
How should the visas that are granted to legal migrants be allocated?
How should we address the crushing numbers of migrants surging across the southern border?
In fiscal 2019 – the last year before COVID upended US immigration policy – more than 700,000 people received a green card through family sponsorship. Another 140,000 were employment-based immigrants; Eighty-one thousand were refugees and 43,000 received diversity visas. Another 58,000 received a green card through other means. The “other means” category included 9,478 EB-5 visas, which gives applicants who can pass a strict background check immediate permanent residency in exchange for an investment. The minimum investment was $500,000 in 2019; it’s since been increased to $800,000.
These numbers don’t include non-immigrant visas issued to individuals seeking to temporarily work (H1B visas) or invest (E1 and E2 visas) in the United States.
We think there’s a better way to decide who gets to enter the United States legally. And there’s an example we can follow that’s been extraordinarily successful: the immigration policy of our northern neighbor, Canada.
There are of course many differences between our two countries which can’t be ignored. Chief among them is that Canada has the luxury of not needing to aggressively police its southern border for illegal migrants from the United States.
But there is another essential distinction we should mention: Canada’s immigration system is designed to meet the needs of its economy. Canadian law gives well-educated and skilled foreign workers priority to settle in Canada, along with entrepreneurs willing to make substantial investments in its economy.
Given pervasive labor shortages with more than 10.7 million jobs available in the United States, and with an increasing proportion of vacancies for skilled employees, Canada’s example might be worth emulating.
To us, it would make sense to reform US immigration laws to give migrants who can fill these positions preferable treatment – including those who previously entered the United States illegally. To make this reform politically palatable, it would need to be combined with stricter border enforcement along with a more rational asylum and refugee policy.
Fixing America’s broken immigration system won’t be easy and will require political sacrifices on both sides.
A top immigration-related priority for Republicans, who will control the House of Representatives for the next two years, is to investigate the failure of the Biden administration to stem illegal crossings on America’s southern border.
This energy would be better spent crafting a more sensible immigration policy – one better suited to America’s economic needs.