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Detroit's Solution to Economic Decline: Immigration

We are excited to see Detroit coming up with work visa ideas. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has asked the Obama administration to set aside thousands of work visas for bankrupt Detroit, a bid to revive the decaying city by attracting talented immigrants who are willing to move there and stay for five years. The proposal involves EB-2 visas, which are offered every year to legal immigrants who have advanced degrees or show exceptional ability in certain fields.  The work visas would be limited to those immigrants willing to live and work in Detroit for five years. During recent Global Cleveland meetings, board members such as Al Ratner, Margaret Wong and Joy Roller have approached Congresswomen Marcy Kaptur and Marcia Fudge, and Senator Sherrod Brown, with similar ideas. Currently, noncitizens with advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability in certain fields are eligible to live and work in the U.S. with EB-2 visas.  Certain applicants who can show that it is in the nation’s interest that they live and work permanently in the U.S. may obtain a National Interest Waiver (NIW).  An NIW allows the applicant to bypass the labor certification process that most other employment based visas require. In order to obtain a green card with an NIW, the applicant must demonstrate the following: (1)  that he/she seeks employment in an area of substantial intrinsic merit to the U.S., (2)  that the benefit from the applicant’s proposed activity will be national in scope, and (3)  that the requirement of a Labor Certification for the applicant will adversely affect the national interest. However, even with an NIW, individuals born in China or India must still wait in line for years for an immigrant visa number to become available.  Also, this type of immigrant visa is generally limited to individuals with higher levels of education.  Overall, this option is not as accessible or simple as it should be. We need the federal government to offer a temporary visa that a foreign-born individual can obtain in a few weeks that does not require an advanced degree or specialty occupation.  The Gov. of Michigan and the Obama administration could create a temporary work visa specifically designed for economically declining cities like Cleveland and Detroit to rejuvenate business opportunities. This specially designed temporary work permit is not unlike the recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiated by President Obama in June of 2012.  This is another exciting concept.

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