By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has published the federal government's revised guidance that would ease the recurring labor shortage in Guam's building industry vis-a-vis the construction boom on island.
The new guidance clarifies how contractors may access an exemption in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which provides USCIS additional flexibility in approving H-2B worker applications for work on Guam.
“The new guidance bodes well for contractors who have been unable to source skilled labor for projects in our private construction sector who typically engage in home building and commercial projects,” Labor Director David Dell’Isola said.
“We sincerely appreciate the outreach from USCIS as they developed and implemented changes to their Policy Manual, based in large part on our suggestions and willingness to engage in the process,” he added.
• Explains that housing development projects, in addition to infrastructure improvements, are likely to qualify for employment of H-2B workers under the NDAA exemption, given an inherent need for additional housing capacity to support the military realignment.
• Recognizes that there is significant evidence that the military realignment has had an adverse impact on the availability of necessary construction labor on Guam.
• Clarifies that USCIS would generally consider a signed letter from a Guam Department of Labor (Guam DOL) official describing the adverse effect of the military realignment, along with a detailed explanation or other evidence that credibly demonstrates how unavailability of construction workers has had a negative impact, sufficient to demonstrate an adverse effect, in the absence of facts indicating otherwise.
"Specifically, the policy change includes the need for more housing as an eligible H-2B need, acknowledges the adverse impact on available labor as a result of the military buildup, and creates a process for the Guam Department of Labor to have a greater role in H-2B approval consideration, all of which will help us get more workers to bring down the cost of housing on Guam and boost our civilian construction industry," Congressman Michael San Nicolas added.
"After hours of meetings between your Congressional Office with dozens of policy professionals and subject matter experts in USCIS, and in further follow through with Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas and USCIS Director Jaddou, we are very pleased with the policy change and guidance update that will allow for a smoother path for H-2B labor in civilian projects," he added.