Washington, DCToday, Representative John Curtis (R-UT), released the following statement after introducing the “State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2019.” The bill would create a new state-sponsored temporary worker visa pilot program.

“Each state has unique industries and employment opportunities, and our current immigration system doesn’t fully recognize these differences. I am excited to take another step towards fixing our broken immigration system by empowering States with the ability to customize a visa program to fit their unique needs. My State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act will provide an additional tool to connect workers with industries that are most in need, and allow visa holders the flexibility to move throughout their sponsoring state, or states, as employment demands and opportunities shift,” said Curtis. “While every state is unique, neighboring states share commonalities that don’t end at lines on a map. We see this in the West, particularly in the agriculture and tourism sectors, where some seasonal operations stretch across multiple states. My bill will allow states to enter into agreements with each other to share workers and give employers the stability to retain the same workers, regardless of where their operation takes them.

Statements of Support

Utah Governor Gary Herbert: “The bill allows state leaders to design visa programs customized to the economic needs of their individual states. The benefits of the bill are obvious. Each state is different. Each state has a different mix of industries, different educational emphases, different employment needs, and different regulatory regimes. And of course those factors change over time…As a governor, I would jump at the opportunity to design a work visa program that would allow Utah to sponsor the migrant workers, investors, and entrepreneurs that we need.” (full letter here)

Ron Gibson, President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation: “The Utah Farm Bureau Federation supports your State-Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act. As a grass roots organization, we fundamentally believe in the value of locally driven solutions. This bill allows states to customize programs to address the needs of employers and workers in the agricultural sector. Utah agriculture has not been able to adequately access and retain labor under the current federal visa program.” (full letter here)

Derek B. Miller, President & CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber: “We appreciate that this bill, in the spirit of the Utah Compact, will allow us and other states to create a program that goes beyond one-size-fits all to allow what I believe are laboratories of democracy the ability to create workable solutions to fit unique workforce and economic requirements. In this way we can all learn and benefit while focusing on respective needs closet to home.” (full letter here)

Background

The legislation will:

  • Create a pilot program at the Department of Homeland Security for states to opt in and sponsor three-year visas.
  • Allow states the flexibility to customize their visa allocations based on each state’s unique economy and needs.
  • Incentivize states to comply with program rules in order to earn additional visas the next year.
  • Encourage states to enter into compacts, giving additional flexibility to visa holders and employers to move seasonal workers between them as needed.

Full text of the bill is available here.

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