Can We Capture More Unused Visas? The Niskanen Center Explains

May 9, 2024

Last Updated on May 13, 2024

Our latest Immigration & Mobility Decoded episode features a discussion of U.S. labor market shortages with Matthew La Corte and Cecila Esterline of the Niskanen Center, along with potential solutions for solving common problems.  

One topic we covered was recapturing unused visas. Matthew and Cecilia note many benefits of recapturing unused visas, including providing more work opportunities for skilled workers, eliminating employment uncertainty and allowing skilled foreign talent to work in the U.S.  

For a more detailed discussion, view our full YouTube video  

Conrad 30  

One option for recapturing unused visas is Conrad 30, a visa waiver program for J-1 visa holders. This visa can be a viable alternative to the H-1B visa, which is one of the most popular but also competitive visas for hiring foreign nationals.  

Matthew La Corte explains more about the lesser-known Conrad 30 program, including a bipartisan bill supporting the initiative and how it can benefit foreign talent, the U.S. economy and the public.  

Matthew La Corte  

There was a huge bipartisan bill in the House and Senate on recapturing unused visas that would go to doctors and nurses. This was a bipartisan effort that didn’t exist before COVID. The notion of recapturing existed, but to have the bipartisan level of support that we had was new.  

We spend a lot of time on the Hill and talk to a lot of members who are really interested in the Conrad 30 program, which is something that we’ve done a lot of work on, and this is healthcare. It’s physicians in rural and underserved communities, something that everybody should be able to support.  

Over the last couple of years, a few compromises have snuck through under the radar. Hopefully Conrad 30 reform, increasing the number of waivers and improving that program, can sneak through. That’s not comprehensive immigration reform. It’s not going to change the immigration system other than a slight tweak, but everything is something.  

Immigration and Mobility Decoded 

It’s a meaningful step.  

Retaining Foreign Talent  

Along with the Conrad 30 program, employers are seeking other options for recruiting and retaining foreign talent. Envoy Global’s 2024 U.S. Immigration Trends Report shows that employers are looking for ways to assist their F-1 OPT, STEM and CPT status holders.  

However, uncertainty remains for both employers and visa holders, especially with high competition for the H-1B visa.  

Immigration and Mobility Decoded  

International students come here on the F-1, and then they could either work or get OPT, but they don’t know if they’re going to be selected in the lottery.  

Due to visa-related uncertainties, a high number of employers are relocating talent outside the U.S.:  


The U.S. has been losing workers to other global markets, including Canada.  

However, as Cecilia explains, the U.S. has recently implemented some promising changes that may help keep foreign workers in the U.S.  

Recent and Proposed U.S. Policy Changes 

Along with the Conrad 30 program, Cecilia discusses other notable employment-based immigration changes that have taken place recently, including visa waiver extensions and an H-1B pilot program that enables H-1B visa renewal stateside. These changes, as our Trends report shows, are making employers optimistic about retaining their foreign workers:  

Cecilia Esterline 

We also had the extension of the visa interview waivers, which were really important. These are interview waivers for individuals who have had certain types of visas before. They could opt out of an interview at the consulates, which we’re not too far from the time which a lot of consulates were having 999 day waits. So this is a really important step. And they were set to expire December 31st, and this was going to be detrimental not only to employment and employers who are looking to bring their individuals here, but also for the travel industry and our commerce and business ventures. 

Along with the option for visa interview waivers, Cecilia also notes an important potential upcoming change to Schedule A.  

Cecilia Esterline 

The Department of Labor issued and subsequently extended an RFI (request for information) regarding Schedule A. Schedule A is a list of occupations for which we don’t have enough American workers, and it gives them a slightly expedited process by skipping one step at the Department of Labor if they’re coming here on a green card. The DOL is now asking the public for information about how they should go about updating it. This is welcome news, as the schedule hasn’t been updated in 30 years.  

Download Envoy Global’s ninth U.S. Immigration Trends Report below to see how your organization compares when it comes to U.S. corporate immigration and global mobility in 2024.   

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