The bureaucracy and maze of regulations associated with the nation’s immigration system creates enormous burdens for businesses and individuals, a new study finds.
The study found that seven different Cabinet agencies receive more than 500 million annual responses from nonresident aliens, immigrants, and current U.S. citizens to the hundreds of regulations, forms, and applications associated with immigration compliance.
This translates into 98.8 million paperwork burden hours, and approximately $30 billion in costs to individuals and businesses, according to the study by the American Action Forum
(AAF), a think tank founded by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former chief of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
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The AAF analyzed more than 150 immigration-related regulations to determine the complexity and burdens the process places upon millions of current citizens and immigrants.
“The debate over immigration, processing new arrivals, and addressing millions of undocumented immigrants receives plenty of political attention, but few focus on the bureaucratic apparatus that surrounds our current immigration system,” the report says.
The AAF found the United States has generated 234 different government forms related to immigration. The Department of Homeland Security alone, which houses Citizenship and Immigration Services, has more than 100 forms for current or aspiring U.S. citizens.
Applicants for citizenship who were admitted into the United States with one of the 65,000 H-1B visas — which are reserved for the most highly skilled immigrants— encounter 16 forms, roughly 18 hours of paperwork, and approximately $2,500 in direct costs, the study finds.
The study also breaks down the costs of lost productivity. The 98.8 million hours in paperwork equates to 49,423 full-time equivalent employees working year-round to complete the government forms. By including the cost of removing employees from their traditional functions, the paperwork “saps approximately $5.9 billion in U.S. productivity annually.”
“Few doubt that our current immigration system is in need of reform,” the report concludes. “Thankfully, many agree that our regulatory state needs an overhaul as well. With seven different agencies administering 234 forms, and imposing $30 billion in economic burdens … the costs of neglecting regulatory immigration reform are already too high.”
The study was issued at the same time as Congress debates immigration reform that will undoubtedly add significant costs and regulatory burdens to the already complicated system.
Among the issues under discussion are border security, guest workers, employer verification, and a potential path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
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