Michigan Governor Says Immigration Key to Economic Development

In a speech delivered at Delta College on December 1, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder stressed the important role immigrants play in the state’s economy and vowed to encourage education- and business-related immigration.

Calling federal caps on H1-B temporary work visas “arbitrary,” Snyder urged Michigan’s congressional delegation to undertake legislation to permanently raise the work visa cap and eliminate it altogether for those who earned an advanced degree from a U.S. college or university. He said Congress should pass a “green cards for grads” bill that is being considered, which would create a pathway for graduates of science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs to obtain permanent residency status.

“It is time to enact this legislation and allow these valuable members of our higher education communities to become permanent, contributing members of our Michigan companies and communities,” Snyder said.

He also drew attention to the EB-5 immigrant investor program, which provides green cards to foreign entrepreneurs who invest capital in job-creating U.S. enterprises. Snyder said he will petition the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to renew the program, which is set to expire in September 2012. He said he would also like to see eligibility requirements change, so that those who invest $500,000 in a Michigan business and create five jobs in the state can obtain an EB-5 visa.

Snyder reaffirmed his support of the Michigan Global Initiative, which is a program to attract international students and business people to the state. However, he said immigration reform is needed at the federal level.

“While the Michigan Global Initiative can help our state recapture the entrepreneurial power of immigrants, aspects of the nation’s immigration laws pose needless barriers to their success,” Snyder said. “Immigration laws are established at the federal level, so it’s important that Michigan partner with the federal government to better attract highly educated foreign talent.”

Snyder delivered his speech two days after the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a wide margin to eliminate business visa per-country caps. If signed into law, this measure would not raise the total number of business visas granted, but would change the U.S. visa application system by granting these documents to immigrants on a first-come, first-serve basis.