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Temporary work visa freeze may be causing these issues for local companies
0331Tim Evans
Tim Evans

New Trump administration rules extending a green card ban and a freeze on temporary work visas could be having local business impacts – and not just for international companies, of which Hall County has a huge presence.

The new rules may also be affecting companies “trying to move talent around the world for technology (initiatives),” such as adding production lines, said Tim Evans, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development.

Evans said “a lot of the production equipment that’s used in manufacturing is produced in Germany, Italy, Korea and Japan, and those equipment vendors have talent that travel around the world for installations.”

“Companies are just having to adjust the best they can right now,” he said. “The thing I’m telling our companies right now is … look to technology if you can -- video conferencing, to some extent. But it’s kind of hard to troubleshoot a production line from a video conference call.”

Another option is “get with an immigration attorney and see what, if there’s anything, you can work out,” Evans said.

Hall has nearly 50 international subsidiaries in the county, “and for many of those businesses our location is both a North American headquarters and a production center,” Evans said.

Those companies have their global headquarters in 17 nations, including Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Korea, Italy and the Czech Republic.

The administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus. One senior official speaking on condition of anonymity predicted it will open up to 525,000 jobs for Americans, a claim that was immediately challenged by critics.

Evans also was skeptical.

“There may be some instances, especially with software companies, maybe, but I don’t think that (job creation) is necessarily the rule.”

The ban on new visas, which took effect Wednesday, June 24, applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by major American and Indian technology companies, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.

There will be exemptions for food processing workers, which make up about 15% of H-2B visas, the official said.

Food processing is a big industry in Hall County, with such companies as King’s Hawaiian bakery in Oakwood. It also includes poultry, which is huge in Hall.

Mike Giles, president of the Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation, acknowledged the exception, but said, “We are evaluating the full executive order, along with our national organization, to see if there are any potential impacts (otherwise).”

Evans said that overall, “a lot of companies have had their own travel restrictions for their employees since March. They’re not necessarily wanting to put their employees in a situation where they would be traveling right now. You’ve got cross-border issues. The U.S. is certainly not the only country or group of countries looking at travel restrictions.”

The reverse is true, as well.

The European Union is “looking at travel restrictions against the United States,” Evans said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.