Visa Labor Caps


Labor shortages have been plaguing the United States in a variety of industries, limiting consumers access to the services they need. This has been particularly problematic in the healthcare industry where it is expected that up to 47% of workers are planning to leave their job within the next three years. These shortages are felt across a wide array of industries including tech and manufacturing, indicating a clear and present need for more skilled workers in order to meet consumer demand.

Although there are plenty of skilled workers internationally who are willing to come work in the United States, visa labor restrictions and caps prohibit these workers from emigrating and helping fill the labor gap. Retrogression – a process that occurs when an annual visa limit is approaching and that delays visa processing for qualified international workers – makes it more difficult to meet America’s labor demand.

How Consumers are impacted

In general, consumers feel the effects of labor shortages throughout the United States through both inflated prices and a lack of access to the goods and services they need.

The healthcare industry has been particularly affected by what is now known as the ‘Great Resignation,’ in which almost half of US healthcare workers have sought out new jobs. With lingering strains on the healthcare system due to the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers and patients will suffer limited access to their healthcare providers and skyrocketing prices for their services. In reality, understaffing in healthcare means (even) longer wait times in emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, as well as for crucial services like imaging, labs, exams, and routine or surgical procedures. When their health and wellbeing is on the line, consumers and patients deserve to have access to quality care without delay.

Healthcare is not the only area where a shortage in skilled workers is harming consumers. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, industries ranging from manufacturing, to financial services and STEM are also in a precarious position due to visa caps and labor shortfalls. The result is demand outpacing production, leading to limited available goods on store shelves, higher prices and longer wait times for services. When companies can’t secure the skilled workers they need, consumers are the hardest hit.


Labor shortages in the United States are a serious concern that must be addressed. As the US pushes toward a full economic recovery post-pandemic, it is imperative that skilled workers be granted access to meet consumer demand. Policymakers should reexamine current employment-based visa quotas and reform processes with an eye toward filling the labor gap as quickly as possible and deterring visa retrogression. Here are some of the recommendations the US could use to rectify labor shortages, increase economic output, and ensure that American consumers have world class access to the highest quality goods and services they both need and enjoy.

  1. Increase skilled worker visas: The US should increase the number of visas granted to skilled workers from around the world to mitigate labor shortages, benefiting industries like healthcare, tech, manufacturing, and financial services.
  2. Utilize unclaimed visas: The US should use unclaimed visas from previous years to address labor shortages quickly, preventing negative impacts on American consumers and reducing retrogression and barriers.
  3. Streamline immigration process: Remove artificial constraints and streamline the application process for skilled workers to reduce backlogs, ease the burden on applicants, and make the US more attractive to international skilled workers.


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Picture of Elizabeth Hicks

Elizabeth Hicks

U.S. Affairs Analyst

Picture of David Clement

David Clement

North American Affairs Manager

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