Employment-Based Immigration is Rare
Each year, a certain number of temporary visas are given to foreigners who want to work in the U.S., generally only for people with specific skills, including nurses, investors, managers, athletes, performers, artists, religious workers, and fashion models. These visas require the sponsorship of an employer, who must go through a lengthy and expensive formal process to prove that there were no U.S. citizens willing or able to do the same work. Among these are the infamous H2-A programs for agricultural workers.
Guest Worker Programs
One proposed option for immigration reform is the expansion of current guest worker programs, under temporary H2 visas. While the idea of expanding options for legal entry is a good one, guest worker programs as they now exist are not good solutions:
- They are incredibly scarce considering the number of jobs in this country which are filled by immigrant labor. In 2010, only around 100,000 visas were issued for the entire H2 category.
- They are only allowed during harvests and for industries where it can be proven that there are no U.S. citizens willing to do the work.
- They are dependent upon the goodwill of the employer, who is thus given an enormous power over workers. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, guest workers are forced to work for less than minimum wage and to live under appalling conditions, denied the right to complain, denied legal representation, and subject to blacklisting. They live and work under virtual slavery.
- These visas are temporary, and there is no way for guest workers to gain permanent residence within the United States.
Permanent Work Visas
Besides non-immigrant programs, around 140,000 permanent residency visas are granted each year through employer sponsorship. These are generally reserved for people who fall into the following categories:
- Geniuses, executives, and other highly talented individuals
- Persons with advanced degrees
- "Special immigrants," including former embassy employees, court wards, religious workers, and others
- Millionaires who are willing to invest in the U.S. economy
Lack of education and resources deny most would-be immigrants the chance to even apply.