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Snyder: Opening Detroit to the world will accelerate comeback of great city

Governor urges increase in employment-based visas

Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014

DETROIT — Detroit must harness the power of skilled immigrants to grow its economy, increase its tax base and reverse its population decline, Gov. Rick Snyder said today as he urged federal action on his proposal that increases employment-based visas for immigrants.

“We want the world to know that Detroit is open for business,” Snyder said. “Legal immigration helped to build this great city and is just as critical to its comeback. Immigrants create jobs and Detroit is a great value opportunity in terms of business costs and overall quality of life. The city has so much to offer anyone willing to contribute to its future. Of course, Michigan has always been a welcoming state to those wishing to call it home. We’re excited about the potential that this initiative holds for Detroit’s turnaround, and look forward to working with our federal partners to make it happen.”

Under Snyder’s initiative, the federal government would secure an additional 50,000 employment-based visas for Detroit’s skilled immigrants during the next five years. The emphasis is on immigrants with advanced academic degrees, or those with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business.

Immigration is a proven driver of job creation and economic growth. Nationally, immigrants founded 28 percent of all small businesses started in 2011. Immigrants also file patents at twice the rate of U.S.-born citizens. In Michigan, immigrants are helping to advance our state into the new economy by launching high-tech firms at incredible rates. During the last decade, immigrants created nearly one-third of the high-tech businesses in Michigan, at a rate six times the rest of the population and ranking Michigan third in the U.S.

The governor was joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who supports the initiative.

“In order for Detroit to grow again, we need highly trained workers to move in, open businesses and raise their families,” Duggan said. “The governor’s plan opens the door for more skilled immigrants to thrive in Detroit’s fertile ground for economic innovation. They will create jobs and employ Detroiters.”

The proposal asks that the federal government approve an allocation of employment-based visas for professionals holding advanced academic degrees and workers with exceptional ability.

Specifically, Snyder’s proposal:

• Requests application of a National Interest Waiver under the Employment-Based Second Preference (EB-2) visas to 50,000 individuals over five years for employment-based visas. Detroit would be allocated 5,000 employment-based visas in the first year; 10,000 each year in the second, third and fourth years; and 15,000 in the fifth year.

• Requires skilled immigrants who receive an employment-based visa under this plan to reside and work in Detroit.

Snyder unveiled his plan at the Ideal Group in Detroit, a Hispanic-owned company delivering innovative solutions in construction services, manufacturing and indirect material management. As the grandson of Mexican immigrants, CEO Frank Venegas understands the importance of expanding opportunities for skilled workers from foreign companies.

“I have seen firsthand how the strong work ethic and diverse set of ideas migrant professionals bring with them foster innovation and creativity in the business community,” Venegas said. “In order for Detroit to be successful we need more contributions from workers all across the world.”

A strong demand exists for professionals in the fields of engineering, Internet technology, health care and life sciences. More than 50 percent of Ph.Ds in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and as many as 40 percent of master’s degrees in engineering, life sciences, computer sciences and physical sciences are awarded each year in the U.S. to international students. As a benefit to American workers, each international student retained in the STEM fields is associated with 2.6 additional jobs for U.S. natives.

Snyder pointed out that Michigan colleges and universities host more than 25,500 international students who contribute more than $750 million to the state’s economy each year. More than 82 percent of Michigan’s international students who use their student visa to work in the U.S. after graduation earned advanced degrees, making them the type of talent that Detroit and all of Michigan needs in this new economy.

Snyder, America’s most pro-immigration governor, said this initiative is just the latest example of how Michigan has established itself as a prime destination for skilled immigrants.

In his recent State of the State address, Snyder announced that he is creating the Michigan Office for New Americans to attract more skilled immigrants to Michigan. He also is urging Washington to approve Michigan’s application to become only the second state with a state-sponsored EB-5 regional center to attract investment and create jobs for Michigan workers.

In addition, the governor has testified before Congress regarding the need for common-sense immigration reform at the federal level. He also implemented the Global Michigan Initiative, designed to recruit skilled immigrants and make Michigan an even more welcoming state. Last year, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued online guides that explain many of Michigan’s professional licensing requirements for individuals who were educated or have work experience in foreign countries.