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U.S. Immigration Regulation Costs $30 Billion Annually: Study

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An economic think tank may have just discovered something about immigration that everyone can agree on: The regulation associated with it is expensive.

The U.S. immigration system involves seven different government cabinet agencies that receive more than half a billion requests a year from current U.S. citizens, immigrants and nonresident aliens, according to a study by the American Action Forum (AAF), a center-right organization run by former Congressional Budget Office director Doug Holtz-Eakin.

The result: tons of paperwork costing immigrants roughly $30 billion a year.

AAF found that a hypothetical skilled immigrant spends roughly 18 hours and $2,500 filling out at least 16 forms on his or her path to naturalization. The study notes that there are 234 government forms related to immigration, translating to 98.8 million hours of paperwork per year.

The think tank also goes on to incorporate the opportunity cost of asking immigrants and U.S. citizens to make their way through the extensive paperwork and filing fees associated with the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the organization concludes that immigration paperwork is sucking $5.9 billion annually from U.S. productivity.

“Few doubt that our current immigration system is in need of reform,” the study says. “Thankfully, many agree that our regulatory state needs an overhaul as well."

Immigration paperwork costs aside, another study found that the U.S. economy would benefit if immigrants were granted citizenship. Granting undocumented immigrants immediate citizenship would add $1.4 trillion to economic growth through increased tax revenue and job growth, according to a study from the Center for American Progress.

There were 39.9 million foreign-born people in the United States in 2010, according to American Progress. 44 percent were naturalized citizens and 24 percent were legal permanent residents.

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