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Immigrants continue to buoy America’s economic engine

While immigrants come to the U.S. for other reasons besides economy, for the most part, they do so to improve the economic well-being of their loved ones after making a money transfer. Naturally, these funds give their spouses and children the financial backing they need to satisfy their daily lives, whether they're routine-oriented – such as shopping for weekly groceries – or for the occasional spending splurges on various forms of entertainment.

But as a new study shows, immigrants who work in the U.S. do a great deal of good for the country's finances.

According to its latest report, "Immigration and the American Worker," the Center for Immigration Studies reports that the goods and services the country produces would not be as significant were immigrants not here. For example, the report found that the U.S.' gross domestic product – which is the total value of what the American workforce produces, is 11 percent larger thanks to the immigrant community. Their contributions add an estimated $1.6 trillion to the national GDP on annual basis.

This contribution improves the lives of both those who originate from the U.S. as well as people who are foreign born. When it comes to the impact immigrants' work productivity has on the native-born population specifically, though, this translates to $35 billion each year.

Unauthorized immigrants have also heightened the value of what the U.S. produces each year in the form of goods and services. The report found that between $395 billion and $472 billion is directly attributable to undocumented immigrants.

H-1B visa cap reached in five days
The levels of success that many immigrants have achieved in the U.S. – illustrated by their contribution to the GDP – helps explain why so many people from overseas seek to come to the U.S. so that they can work. And every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services makes a special type of visa available to foreign workers so that they can enter the country based chiefly on their skills in a particular profession or trade. These visas are known as H-1B.

Because there are so many people who want to enter the U.S. and a limited number of H-1B visas immigration officials put a cap on how many are distributed, determining who get them on a first come, first served basis. Less than a week after USCIS indicated it would begin the approval and application process for H-1Bs, the 65,000 cap was reached.

In short, this means that those who did not file for a high-skill visa will have to wait an entire year if they want to enter the U.S. through this method. It's also bad news for business owners, many of whom hire from overseas due to some individuals' advanced training in specific fields. They, too, will have to wait until April 2014, when the H-1B process begins anew.

The benefits and popularity of the H-1B visa application process has prompted many legislators and immigration advocates to request that the cap be expanded so that more people can take advantage of it. As noted by the Brookings Institute, bills are currently being considered in Congress that would raise the cap to 115,000. It would then increase or decrease by 20,000 in the subsequent year, depending on the type of demand there was.

The Washington, D.C.-based think tank is in favor of increasing the cap.

"The current immigration reform debate is a great opportunity to overhaul the system and move away from an arbitrary race against time for H-1B visas," said Brookings. "A new method that structures America's future immigration system to better meet the demand for high-skilled workers … will be welcomed by employers and workers alike."

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