State-Sponsored Visas: New Bill Lets States Invite Foreign Workers, Entrepreneurs, and Investors
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) recently introduced the State-Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act (S. 1040) to federalize a portion of America’s migration system. Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO) has announced plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.1Their bill allows states to implement a state-sponsored work visa program where states would sponsor migrant workers, investors, and entrepreneurs using their own criteria under federal oversight. This type of program would add flexibility to a sclerotic immigration system because states are better able to design visas for changing and varied local conditions, creating positive economic and fiscal benefits for the entire country.
THE STATE-SPONSORED VISA PILOT PROGRAM ACT
The new legislation would create a way for states to sponsor economic migrants for federal three-year visas.2The Senate bill sets an initial average of 10,000 visas per state annually: 5,000 for each state and 245,000 visas divided among the 50 states and D.C. based on population. The House bill will reportedly be half these levels.3These numbers increase through a simple formula based on GDP growth and program enforcement. The Senate bill copies current nonimmigrant visa programs by exempting spouses and minor children from numerical caps unless the states choose otherwise. States could opt in to this program by passing a law and complying with federal rules. The state government would then submit petitions to the federal government requesting admission for the migrants chosen by the state through a state-designed selection process. These federal rules are nearly identical to the filing procedure that states currently use to sponsor government employees or students at public universities.4