Could The COVID-19 Pandemic Be A Blessing In Disguise From An Immigration Perspective?
By Yohan Zingile
Posted: 14th September 2021 08:32Supply chain professionals have raised alarm over the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused businesses in the United States. According to business leaders, the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of U.S. industries and consequently the U.S. economy. In particular, the manufacturing sector is confronting a big challenge as it has shown its limits due to the disruptions in supply chain. Beside the shortage in medical supplies necessary to reduce or eliminate the spread of the virus, many companies have not been able to receive the raw materials or supplies to continue their production and keep up with the increasing demand. In fact, U.S. producers rely heavily on international supply chain. With the pandemic and its restrictions and health-related measures implemented worldwide, most producers overseas have not been able to ship materials or parts to U.S. companies on a regular basis. As a result, U.S. companies have experienced shortages of essential materials and goods, which has also led to an increase in commodities prices.
The interruption in the transportation of materials and goods to the United States has been a constant struggle for many companies and has led to a rethink of the manufacture sector’s strategies to avoid reliance on foreign suppliers. Investing in homemade manufactured supplies would better serve companies in the long term and help them meet the increasing demands of materials such as metal, computer and electrical or nonelectrical products, transportation equipment, industrial machinery, among others. This opens the opportunity for potential foreign investors and entrepreneurs to contribute to the development of manufacture businesses in the United States. Perhaps, the changes in the supply chain space may attract possible direct foreign investment in U.S. materials manufacturing plants.
Again, the pandemic has weakened the U.S. economy and unemployment became very high. Many immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants are facing uncertainties regarding their approval. It has become more difficult for employment-based immigrants and non-immigrant visa applicants to be granted a visa since the country is still in the recovery stage and many American workers are still unemployed. Hence, foreign direct investment in the U.S. could be a growing trend, to not only attract much needed capital, but to also facilitate immigration for persons who have the capital to set up such manufacturing outfits.
Immigration officers now evaluate petitions more strictly than before the pandemic. However, the U.S. is still welcoming foreign professionals and investors who will positively contribute to the country’s economic development. Therefore, potential entrepreneurs and investors have real chances in investing in the development of U.S. manufacturing businesses or plants since homemade goods have become vital for the U.S. economy in the current climate. They can make investment through various non-immigrant programs. They may be interested in the E-2 non-immigrant investor visa program reserved for foreign nationals of countries that have a Treaty of Trade and Commerce with the United States (treaty country). It would allow interested applicants to enter the U.S. to invest in a manufacture business and direct its operations. Interested foreign investors or entrepreneurs could also make their investment through the L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visa program. With this option, existing foreign manufacturing companies can send an executive or manager to the U.S. to establish a new U.S. branch or office. In addition, potential foreign entrepreneurs or investors interested in manufacture sector might want to choose the immigrant visa options such as the EB-5 or National Interest Waiver programs to pursue their endeavor in the U.S. on a long-term basis.
The need for the U.S. to establish domestic supply chain and enjoy local supplies for productions across industries would strengthen the weak economy Focusing on the development of U.S. based manufacturing plants would generate numerous jobs for skilled U.S. citizens and legal permanent resident workers and boost innovation. Moreover, companies would not have to pay shipping and transportation cost, which could lower the cost of commodities. Also, companies would benefit from a better proximity with their customers and avoid uncertainty with exchange rate.
Implementing this strategy would require that manufacturing plants hire individuals who possess specialised skills due to the sophistication and technology necessary in manufacturing goods, materials, or their components. This might be favorable to foreign workers in the field who are regularly working on manufactured products and whose skills are lacking in the U.S. and would therefore be very valuable to U.S. manufacturing plants. Foreign manufacturing companies interested in establishing a new branch in the U.S. might want to look into the L-1B nonimmigrant visa option if confronted with the shortage of skilled workers. This would enable the newly established U.S. business to transfer to the U.S. facility its employee(s) from the foreign facility who possess(s) the necessary specialised knowledge or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in manufacturing the company’s product.
The proposed infrastructure bill is worthy of review. On 10 August 2021, the United States Senate passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which provides nearly $550 billion in new federal spending in America’s infrastructure over the next five years. The legislation creates new federal investment in infrastructure which includes roads, bridges, rail, public transit, airports, water infrastructure, ports and waterways. The bill also provides federal investment in electric grid, low-carbon programs, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and environmental remediation, among others measures. The adoption of this legislation would create many jobs in various sectors and attract highly skilled foreign workers to fill open positions.
The purpose of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is to grow and strengthen the economy, create well-paid jobs and enhance U.S. transportation competitiveness in the long term. This major federal investment will impact many industries across the U.S. The bill will likely foster the development of manufacturing facilities and enable the country to rely more on domestic supply chain. The current U.S. infrastructure system was built decades ago, and many experts have warned about the dangerous state of bridges and roads. The existing infrastructures cannot keep up with the increase of the population since they were established. The poor conditions of ground, air, and water transportation infrastructures are impediments to the stimulation of the economic activities. Additionally, there are health safety issues associated with the current water system and on-going power outages noticeable across the country.
The implementation of the new legislation gives rise to new opportunities for foreign nationals interested in coming to the United States. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides an investment of more than $100 billion in transportation infrastructures, which includes highway, roads, bridges, and other transportation projects. Foreign national investors or entrepreneurs would be well served in investing businesses within the construction, transportation and manufacturing industries. Perhaps, there are opportunities for public private partnership where the foreign investor could leverage the forthcoming funds.
Also, the United States is confronting a shortage of skilled construction workers. The U.S. needs nearly 430,000 construction workers this year and at least one million construction workers over the next two years. Around 80% of construction firms are currently struggling to find qualified skilled workers. With the new federal infrastructure investment plan, the need for workers could even be higher. Foreign skilled workers represent a good source of labour for U.S. construction companies to overcome the shortage of workers and meet the demand. There will likely be a surge in highly skilled foreign workers coming to the U.S. on immigrant and non-immigrant visas to fill jobs.
The legislation also addresses pollution issues by developing clean energy industry which includes solar, wind, carbon, and energy transmission. It plans the development of zero-emission vehicles, which includes the delivery of thousands of electric school buses and the creation of a network of electric vehicle charging stations on highways and in communities. This investment would also be attractive to foreign nationals with technological skills and knowledge in the renewable energy sectors.
Yohan Zingile is an Attorney at Law, and the Business Clients Relationship Manager at Center for U.S. Immigration Services (CFUIS) – a U.S. based immigration law firm with headquarters in Tampa. He advises investors and business clients in U.S. operation set ups, general business development, immigration documentation, and oversees development of international programs. He leads the firm’s development growth strategy on the domestic and international level.