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The Weekly Round-Up: Labor Shortages Persist Despite Low Unemployment and White House Plans to End Visa for Foreign Entrepreneurs

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Agriculture and Construction Industries are Concerned About Labor Shortages

Despite lower unemployment across the country, agriculture and construction companies continue to face vacant positions, and are arguing for increased immigrant labor.  For example, in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, there is greater demand for construction work, but there are approximately 38,000 unfilled position in the industry.  As reported in the Dallas Morning News, this adds about two months and $5,000 to a typical home construction project, which has prompted calls for increased access to foreign workers.  Pia Orrenius, Vice President and Senior Economist
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said that to “lift wages in the long term, you need real economic growth. And to generate that, you need a healthy, open economy.”  Likewise, Stan Marek, who runs a Houston-based construction company, stated that “we need people . . . Our kids are not going into the trades, and if we don’t have immigrant labor, it’ll be tougher and tougher to build houses, churches and schools.”

Meanwhile, the American Farm Bureau Federation is advocating to Congress for a larger temporary work program for foreign employees.  The group’s managing director of public policy and economics, Paul Schlegel, stated that “we are now dependent, to a large degree, on hundreds of thousands of workers who would like to get legal status and we want to get them legal status, so stabilization of our existing workforce is a principal element that has to be addressed, and, for the future, we have to have a guest worker program that embraces all of agriculture, that’s affordable, that’s not bureaucratic, that gets employers workers when they need them.”

In part to alleviate some of these concerns U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on May 25 that it would add 15,000 additional visas for H-2B workers, who perform temporary or seasonal work in a variety of industries including landscaping, construction, and others, although this does not include farm workers.  Additionally, as The NMM Immigration Blog reported last week, Congress is currently reviewing several immigration bills that are attempting to address labor shortages in different ways.  We will continue to cover this issue as it progresses.

Department of Homeland Security Moves to End Visa Program for Immigrant Startup Investors

On Tuesday, DHS announced its intention to terminate the International Entrepreneur Rule, which would have provided temporary, five-year visas for immigrants who had invested in start-up companies in the United States and proven that the business was successful.  The visa would have been available for approximately 3,000 people per year.

The start-up visa had garnered wide support in Silicon Valley, including the National Venture Capital Association and Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, a company that supports new start-ups in the United States.  However, DHS expressed concern that the program is too complex and too expensive, and that other visas are available and working well enough to support the need for foreign investment in American startups.

DHS is currently taking public comment on the rule, and will soon issue a decision on whether to scrap or amend the program.  If you have questions about visas for foreign investors, please contact an experienced immigration attorney about this process and what immigration options are available to you.

If you have questions about topics covered in today’s weekly round-up, or other immigration matters, contact me at wcmenard@nmmlaw.com.