Georgia Offers Perfect Storm of Bad Licensing Policy and Bad Immigration Policy

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 9 2012 11:59 AM

Georgia Offers Perfect Storm of Bad Licensing Policy and Bad Immigration Policy

We don't require that people show proof of legal residency before riding on publicly subsidized buses not because we're committed to providing public services to unauthorized migrants, but because doing this would be an enormous pain in the ass to the vast majority of residents and visitors who have legal permission to be here. But ever since anti-immigration activists realized that adding residency checks willy-willy to different things is a political winner, different levels of government have been expanding paper checking procedures. This can end up interacting with other aspects of bureaucratic procedure, like in Georgia where Kim Severson reports that a new rule requiring proof of residency to get an occupational license is creating a red tape traffic jam:

Things are so jammed at the secretary of state’s office that renewing a state license for some of the 200 professions that require one is taking weeks instead of days. For some brand-new nurses, the wait for a license can stretch into three months.
The reason is a new law that went into effect at the beginning of the year. It requires people seeking professional licenses to prove they are in the United States legally.
That means people who used to renew online must now find and send in what the state deems a secure and verifiable document: a copy of a driver’s license, a passport, a green card or other government-issued ID.
“The fact of the matter is that in our agency we’ve taken a streamlined process we’ve had in place and made it more bureaucratic,” said Brian Kemp, the secretary of state.
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Since Georgia, like most American states, requires licenses for far too many professions (not just nurses, but also people who cut hair and give kickboxing lessons) this winds up impacting a pretty large number of people. And surely it constitutes the worst reason in the world for Georgia to be dragging its foot on job creation. You have people who are qualified to do work, but are legally prohibited from working not even because they aren't legal residents but simply because it's taking so much time to get through all the paperwork.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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