Employers Foot US$30 Billion for Broken Immigration Process

By: Nick Zaiac - @NickZaiac - Apr 20, 2015, 9:17 pm

US$2,200, six federal forms, 118 pages of documents to file. These are the costs of hiring a single immigrant worker for a hypothetical business, as reported in a new study by Sam Batkins and Laura Collins of the American Action Forum. Batkins and Collins note that the lawyer fees make up a large portion of these costs.

Lawyers make up the bulk of immigration compliance costs(AAF)
Lawyers make up the bulk of immigration compliance costs. (AAF)

The study looks at each different form involved in the process, and assesses the cost in time and money to comply. Some steps have a relatively low cost, while others are far more burdensome.

In all, hiring a worker on the H-1B “high-skill immigrant” visa takes an average of about 250 days, while hiring short-term temporary workers take a bit less, about one month. There are at least four steps in hiring an immigrant worker, all of which involve costs in both time and paperwork.

All of these numbers show that while the costs of failing to fix the US immigration system are high, there are currently high regulatory burdens for hiring immigrants as well. Taking 250 days to approve a visa can be a nightmare for businesses seeking highly skilled workers to fill important company roles.

Moreover, the time costs of complying can be a nightmare, especially for small businesses. Few have time to spend days filing forms to simply hire a person who does not currently work in the United States.

Indeed, this cost, according to Batkins and Collins, can add up to a regulatory tax of 3.6 percent for small firms, just to hire a single worker. While vast reforms are needed to the US immigration system, there would be great value in streamlining the current system to reduce regulatory cost.

Edited by Fergus Hodgson and Daniel Duarte.

Nick Zaiac Nick Zaiac

Nick Zaiac is a public-policy researcher in Washington, DC. He also serves as a policy analyst at the Maryland Public Policy Institute. His column, The DC Leviathan focuses on the often-ignored bureaucratic agencies, from the Department of the Interior to the General Services Administration. He has been published in the Baltimore Sun, City AM, CapX, and other outlets. Follow @NickZaiac.