The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a proposal to extend Guam’s exemption from the national H-2B visa caps until 2029.
The proposal is included as a provision in H.R. 5956, the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, which the House passed on Wednesday.
The bill provides reforms to the NMI’s CW-worker program. “I am pleased the House passed H.R. 5956 that includes a 10-year extension of Guam’s existing exemption from the national H-2B visa caps,” said Guam’s Delegate to Congress, Madeleine Bordallo.
On April 23, the U.S. Senate passed a similar bill, S. 2325. Bordallo cosponsored the earlier version of this bill (HR 4869), and secured similar provisions for Guam in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which was passed by the House on May 24.
Historically, Guam has been exempted from the annual 66,000 H2B visa cap. However, since December 2016 the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Service has been denying visa renewals and new petitions from Guam companies.
As a result, foreign nurses and construction workers were sent home and several developers put their projects on hold. The number of H2B workers on Guam has gone down from 1,400 2,000 three years ago to less than a hundred this year. Guam is estimated to build $5.5 billion worth civilian construction work during the next five years.
In April, USCIS opened up 4,000 slots for H2B workers recruited for projects related to the military buildup, based on the 2018 NDAA.
PHC Corp. has received approvals for 333 H2B visas. However, civilian projects are not covered by the 2018 NDAA provision that allows 4,000 H2B visas.
The new bill, Bordallo said, “is important to ensure that our local companies have access to H-2B laborers when our local workforce is unable to meet our island’s needs.”
“I continue working in Congress to address Guam’s labor shortage, including in this year’s national defense bill. I look forward to seeing these important pieces of legislation signed into law by the President,” she added.
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