My company's immigration nightmare stopped me from hiring 15 new workers
By Jennifer Liberto @jenlibertoJuly 22, 2014: 9:26 AM ET
Jamison Door Company makes the giant walk-in refrigerators that chill produce and milk at Costco(COST) and Wal-Mart(WMT).
How the small freezer door manufacturer got caught in the byzantine world of U.S. immigration laws is a cautionary tale at a time when the nation is embroiled in a controversial debate about outdated immigration laws.
It all started two years ago when Jamison wanted to make a new high-speed, roll-up freezer door that had already been perfected in Italy. Jamison was betting that adopting the new technology would lead to new demand and create as many as 15 new jobs at its factory in Hagerstown, Md.
A key step involved tapping into the technical know-how of Italian business owner Danilo Benotto, an expert in the roll-up doors.
Jamison CEO John T. Williams puts it this way: Benotto "needs to be in this country," because he understands how the door works better than anybody.
So Jamison got into a joint venture and tried to get Benotto into the United States on an investor visa called E-2.
Over the course of two years, Benotto invested in real estate, equipment and materials, all requirements for the visa.
If Congress does tackle new immigration laws, the E-2 investor visa is among those poised for a redo, said Matthew Kolodziej, a legislative fellow at Immigration Policy Center in Washington. Both the Senate and the House have proposed significant changes, he said.
"E2 visas are really quite complicated and they've been getting increased scrutiny from the agencies and consulates," Kolodziej said. "It's very difficult for companies."