Background: Simplification of Visa Categories


There currently exist 30 different categories of immigrant visas, each of which has many subcategories. This extremely large number of visa categories significantly reduces the effectiveness of immigration policy. A 2009 Immigration Panel conducted as part of the University of Denver’s Strategic Issues Program suggested that visa categories be limited to visitor, student, temporary, convertible, family, provisional, representative, and refugee.  Simplification of visa categories is recommended by the panel as a viable choice to commence immigration reform.


Simplification of visa categories would have three primary benefits: a simpler visa application process, an easier path to the creation of more new immigration laws, and an more efficient immigration system.

While part of the role of the visa application is to ensure legitimate immigration, any difficulty to immigrants caused by the many categories of visas alone is undue. Simplification of visa categories would allow for more clear and effective laws by decreasing the possibility of unexpected interpretations.

Lastly, simplifying the visa categories system would reduce red tap. The 2009 University of Denver panel recommended that the annual diversity lottery be eliminated and its visa allocation be transferred to the convertible visa category. The lottery system is very confusing and shifting focus to a more standard application system would reduce the number of errors.


Simplification of visa categories will not solve several major problems and may instead distract from alternative routes. Simplification of visa categories has the potential to cause long discussions about changing the expiration of certain visas by one or two years and completely distract from other important issues such as redevelopment of skilled worker visas and family visas. In addition to this dramatically simplifying visa categories would reduce the ease of information storage that the complex category system provides.


As previously stated there are 30 different designations of visas for immigrants, each of which has many subcategories. The University of Denver panel recommends that Congress establish only a maximum numeric limit for each major category of visa and that the allocation of visas within each major category be handled by an independent Immigration Management Commission to be created by Congress. In the past there has been some skepticism as to the legitimacy of filling visa category quotas. Simplification of visa categories as suggested is a viable choice to kick off immigration reform.

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