Gov. Doug Burgum today signed bipartisan legislation creating an Office of Legal Immigration within the North Dakota Department of Commerce to help businesses recruit and retain foreign labor and address the state’s workforce challenges.
The immigration office will develop a pilot program to support businesses pursuing or employing legal immigrants and help communities develop plans and activities to integrate immigrants. The office also may contract with other state agencies and private organizations to develop and administer programs or services related to bringing legal immigrants into the state’s workforce, including those already in the United States. The bill includes authorization and funding for two additional Commerce team members to administer the office.
“Working with the Legislature, we continue to pursue a comprehensive strategy to address North Dakota’s workforce challenges, and the Office of Legal Immigration will play an important role in those efforts by helping employers recruit and retain legal immigrants,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful to the bill’s sponsors, the Department of Commerce and the business and medical communities for supporting this legislation to alleviate our extreme workforce shortage, which remains North Dakota’s No. 1 barrier to economic growth.”
The bill requires Commerce to conduct a study – with input from employers – on immigration opportunities, immigration goals and ways to measure progress, and a structure for a pilot program to support businesses and communities pursuing legal immigration. Commerce also must develop a fee-based system for immigration office services to be implemented in the 2025-27 biennium.
North Dakota had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the nation in March, at 2.1%. Job Service North Dakota reported more than 17,000 online job openings in March, the most recent month available, and estimates are that the actual number of available jobs may be twice that many because employers aren’t posting every open position.
Senate Bill 2142 was introduced by Sen. Tim Mathern of Fargo and co-sponsored by Sens. Kristin Roers and Ronald Sorvaag, both of Fargo, and Reps. Zachary Ista of Grand Forks, Lisa Meier of Bismarck and Alisa Mitskog of Wahpeton. It passed the Senate 41-5 and the House 64-28.