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The visa system: Not working

FOR the first time in five years, America’s immigration service will hold a lottery to allocate the visas it makes available to foreigners recruited by private business to work in the country. This is because applications for the 65,000 H1B visas it issues to corporate America each fiscal year, starting on April 1st, were expected to exceed the number available by April 5th. Five days is not the record for reaching the cap on business visas. In 2007 it took one day and, in 2008, two.The silver lining—that this is yet more evidence of a stronger American economy—sits inside a very dark cloud. The cap on visas is entirely arbitrary and unnecessary, and almost certainly imposes high economic costs on the country. As the chart shows—and as Michael Clemens, an economist at the Centre for Global Development, points out—in every year since 2003, even in the depths of the recent recession, demand from business for H1B visas has exceeded the cap, leaving companies unable to fill jobs that would have boosted the economy.Studies have found that skilled immigrant workers are more likely than their domestic counterparts to create patentable inventions or start new businesses. Some…

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