Gov. Cox sends letter asking President Biden to increase work-based visas

PARK CITY, Utah — Utah Governor Spencer Cox, along with the governors of Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Maryland, and Guam sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling for pandemic restrictions to be lifted on temporary foreign workers coming into the United States under a variety of exchange or worker visas.

“Many of these visa programs were curtailed at the beginning of the pandemic as U.S. unemployment rose. As our economy recovers and we learn more about the unique nature of this recovery, any such justifications for limiting worker visas are long since gone, at least in our states and territories,” the letter says.

In the last six months of the 2020 fiscal year (April to September), the federal government issued 397,596 nonimmigrant visas (NIVs). During the same period in 2016, 5.6 million NIVs were issued. “Beginning in mid to late March, the Trump administration virtually halted the issuance of NIVs to people abroad,” writes the Cato Institute.

The governors cite vaccine and testing requirements for visa holders as the “primary bottleneck at this stage.”

“Those are valid strategies to protect U.S. healthcare capacity, but we strongly encourage you to expand your focus and prioritize a much broader swath of skill sets.

“Our temporary foreign workforce has long represented an important and valued part of our workforce, but they are even more critical now given the acute labor shortages. Some of our states and territories make active use of the J-1 visa program to power our summer and winter tourism industries—vital economic drivers for our states and territories.”

Utah’s unemployment rate is 2.1%, which is half the national rate of 4.2%.

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