Nation

Mich. seeks visas to draw immigrants to Detroit

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder spoke at the IDEAL Group Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 in Detroit.
Paul Sancya/AP
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder spoke at the IDEAL Group Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 in Detroit.

DETROIT — Governor Rick Snyder asked the federal government Thursday to set aside thousands of work visas for bankrupt Detroit, a bid to revive the decaying city by attracting talented immigrants who are willing to move there and stay for five years.

The Republican governor has routinely touted immigration as a potential force for growing Detroit’s economy, saying immigrant entrepreneurs start many small businesses and file patents at twice the rate of US-born citizens.

‘‘Let’s send a message to the entire world: Detroit, Michigan, is open to the world,’’ Snyder said at a news conference.

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The proposal involves EB-2 visas, which are offered to legal immigrants who have advanced degrees or show exceptional ability in certain fields.

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But the governor’s ambitious plan faces significant hurdles: The visas are not currently allocated by region or state. And the number he is seeking — 50,000 over five years — would be a quarter of the total EB-2 visas offered.

The proposal seemed to take officials by surprise at the State Department, which works with the Homeland Security Department to decide on visa requests.