Feds approve Guam H-2Bs contrary to US Homeland Security
Three contractors have recently been approved to bring 97 H-2B visa workers from the Philippines to Guam, while another was allowed to add a second project to their application and utilize their existing 258 H-2B workers for the second project on Guam, according to a press release from the office of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
The approvals come even after the Philippines was removed from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s list of countries approved for H-2B labor. The Philippines was removed from the list of approved countries in January, creating uncertainty in the contractor community in sourcing workers from the country.
With the news of the approvals, the release says, Gov. Leon Guerrero renews her call for contractors to petition for H-2B workers if they are unable to source skilled workers in Guam.
“The H-2B denials in 2017 and the ban placed on the Philippines created a shortage of labor on Guam, driving up the price of construction and halting many projects on our island,” said the governor.
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“As I’ve told the White House, the U.S. Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during my trip to D.C. last month, every construction project on Guam is tied to the military buildup. Our military families stationed on Guam travel the same roads, visit the same malls and eat at the same restaurants. They enjoy Guam the way we all enjoy Guam, locals and tourists alike. We are one community and the federal government needs to recognize this. I continue to encourage contractors to make a case for listing projects as buildup-related and am hopeful that more approvals will be forthcoming.” With 858 workers currently on island and 629 workers pending arrival, the governor is optimistic that the trend of approvals will continue. Removal of the Philippines from the H2B list resulted in an increased layer of federal scrutiny to meet the requirement that the employment of the workers be in the U.S. interest, but employers have been successful in meeting USCIS requirements and securing approvals, with the National Defense Authorization Act exemption being a major contributing factor.
The NDAA exemption allows for H-2B workers on Guam so long as petitions are being made for military-related projects and for public and private sector projects when properly justified. Projects related to the Airport, Roads, Hotel Construction/Renovation and Utilities have been approved in recent months.
Last week, the USCIS approved an application for 258 H-2B workers for a multi-family housing (apartments/condominiums) project. This positive development should give employers more confidence in their efforts to petition for H-2B workers in completing projects.
Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola, said, “As employers successfully deploy their H-2B workers, these employers are encouraged to use their active projects as training grounds for local workers and build capacity in the local workforce.”