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Charging More for Immigration: Closing Financial Loopholes in the U.S. Migration Process

April 1, 2010
By David North

In this Backgrounder & Report for CIS, David North writes that the U.S. Government, fighting two wars and one huge recession, badly needs additional revenues to move toward a balanced budget.

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In this Backgrounder & Report for CIS, David North writes that the U.S. Government, fighting two wars and one huge recession, badly needs additional revenues to move toward a balanced budget. Meanwhile, migration to (and, to a lesser extent, visitation of) the United States offers remarkable financial benefits to the individuals involved and these visitors are not currently paying their fair share to the U.S. Treasury. The following package of revenue-raising proposals would close many of the existing financial loopholes that silently hurt all of us.

One premise behind this proposal is that some migration/visitation transactions are currently covered by adequate fees (such as some of the application fees paid by legal immigrants and non-immigrants), other transactions are not taxed at all (such as crossings by people and vehicles over the land borders), and a third group are taxed much too lightly (i.e., the fees connected with the immigrant investor and the H-1B programs). Another premise is that all of these transactions should be regarded as potential sources of revenue and should be tapped accordingly. The current fee structure, where it exists, is designed not as a revenue-raising system, but simply as a way to finance the costs of, for instance, issuing visas to tourists. (The charges described in this paper all relate to the movement of persons, not commodities, which is a totally different subject.)

The third premise governs the size of the proposed fees. Most are designed to lightly tax existing transactions (such as charging border-crossing pedestrians a quarter at a turnstile) without reducing the number of such transactions, but a few others, such as a substantial fee to corporations with H-1B workers, may diminish such transactions, which would be fine.

The last premise is that these new or enhanced fees are designed primarily to fall on nonresidents of the United States, but in some instances (such as border crossers) both citizens and non-citizens will pay. In these instances, it is both fair and more efficient to charge the same quarter, for instance, to citizen and non-citizen pedestrians alike.

Generally, newcomers to the United States, whether investors or, more likely, blue collar workers, probably should see themselves as members of a forgetful country club, or union, in which the organization largely failed to collect its dues. The following revenue proposals are a remedy for that.

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Immigration