IMPRINT: Immigrant Professional Integration

Immigrant Professional Integration Emerges as Common Theme in 2019 State Legislative Sessions

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signs an executive order to create the Office of Opportunities for New Americans and the New Americans Advisory Committee in May 2018

2019 is off to a promising start in the field of skilled immigrant integration with six states seeking to address barriers to employment for internationally-trained professionals. Last year, six states, California, Idaho, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Vermont authorized measures addressing brain waste. These new measures, together with the policies enacted last year, show an emerging trend in states to reverse the negative economic and social impact of brain waste.

State policymakers are exploring ways to help internationally-trained immigrants restart their careers in the U.S., while at the same time addressing critical labor shortages in health care, teaching, STEM, and many other fields.

The policies proposed in the new bills up for consideration include the creation of commissions to examine barriers to employment for immigrant workers with credentials (or qualifications) and training from another country, establishing Offices of New Americans, and expanding access to workforce development training programs and English language instruction.

In Massachusetts, a bill seeks to increase access to health care in underserved areas and directs a commission to conduct a study on the licensing of foreign-trained medical professionals. A second pending bill in the state would establish a commission to increase employment opportunities for skilled immigrants in the state. The commission would be tasked with making recommendations to the governor and the state legislature on removing barriers to licensure for internationally-trained professionals as well as ways to improve workforce training and business development.

In Arizona, SB 1446, a bipartisan bill introduced in early February, proposes the establishment of a statewide Office of New Americans to support the social and economic integration of immigrants in the state, including those who want to apply their skills or start new enterprises.

The Maine legislature is considering a bipartisan bill to increase services and workforce training to the state’s immigrant populations. The measure would create a vocation-specific English language training program, and also establish a Welcome Center Initiative to provide vocational training for foreign-trained workers, including foreign-trained professionals, and to match them with in-demand jobs.

In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak called for the creation of an Office of New Americans in his State of the State Address earlier this year. The idea is not new in Nevada. In 2017, SB 186 was introduced, but later died in committee. The bill would have created an Office of New Americans and provided for an on-line resource for internationally-trained immigrants in regulated professions.

Legislation was also introduced in North Dakota and Virginia this year but the measures were ultimately defeated. In Virginia, House Joint Resolution 682 called for a study to examine ways the talents of physicians trained outside the United States could be leveraged to address shortages of physicians in rural and underserved areas of the Commonwealth. While the measure failed to pass, the rules subcommittee chairman agreed to request that the Virginia Department of Health Professions conduct such a study. And in North Dakota, a Republican-sponsored bill sought to allow foreign practitioners with seven years of practice to obtain a license in the state without taking an examination or obtaining additional training.

Collectively, these efforts represent a growing recognition at the highest levels of state government of the skills and experience that foreign-trained professionals bring with them to this country, and their potential for helping transform local economies urgently in need of their talents. IMPRINT will closely monitor these pending measures as well as other state efforts, and we look forward to sharing updates throughout the legislative sessions in upcoming newsletters and in our IMPRINT Policy Map.

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