BY EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – From physicians to architects to barbers, immigrants and other people educated or trained abroad must meet Michigan’s licensing requirements to continue their professional and vocational careers in this country.
And difficulties in doing so could impede efforts by the Snyder administration to attract skilled immigrants to Michigan.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 6 percent of the state’s population was born abroad.
Ryan Bates, director of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform-Michigan, said, “The requirements are complicated. It depends on different types of licenses.”
According to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affair (LARA), all applicants for commercial licenses must meet the same requirements. Applicants for health professions licenses must meet all requirements established by professional boards regulated by the department’s Bureau of Health Care Services.
“For example, foreign-trained nurses must have their education evaluated for equivalency to an approved nursing educational program in the United States. And the review must be performed by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools,” said Jeannie Vogel of LARA’s communication office.
“Others are quite the same, depending on different requirements of different boards,” she said.
Vogel said she hasn’t heard any complaints about immigrants’ difficulties in obtaining Michigan credentials.
Gov. Rick Snyder said that more skilled immigrants will help speed economic recovery.
“We know we must continue to welcome innovators, entrepreneurs and skilled workers from around the world. They can help our core industries — automotive, agriculture and tourism — continue to drive Michigan’s comeback, and help our nation remain an economic superpower,” he said.
Shakil Khan, president of the Multicultural Council of America, said his nonprofit organization in Lake Orion helps immigrants with their professional training.
“We opened a small private college called Dominican International Institute, which offers students English and professional courses. Students can choose the course they need to pass the exams for the certificates and do short-term training for several months to two years,” he said.
“We have a pay-as-you-study program to help those who can’t afford the high tuition fee, which allows students to pay their fees by month.”
Khan said the council also provides career advice.
For example, he cited the council’s advice that a 62-year-old physician from Eastern Europe switch to medical case management. That career pays well and requires medical knowledge without the need to retrain for a Michigan medical license.
Both Bates and Khan said the government needs to make the licensing process easier.
Bates said, “There are still PhDs driving a taxi cab. Licensing shouldn’t be an obstacle for those people who come to Michigan pursuing their American dream. It can be improved, and there is potential.”
And Khan said “Everyone is saying that immigrants have contributed benefits to society but we don’t see a lot of programs to help us grow.
“We keep fighting and keep trying to fulfill the requirements. Civil rights are wonderful on paper but they never perform as they say,” he said.
“We’re not trying to change the laws of the country, but we are showing them a different way, and sometimes they listen.”
BY EDITH ZHOU