US Homeland Security: No Change In Foreign Work Visa Process Overall Or For Guam

High rate of denials and skilled worker shortages in Guam not due to adjustments to review process or policy

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, September 18, 2016) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services said recently there has been no change in policy or process for reviewing petitions to hire foreign workers on H-2B visas.

“I want to clarify that there has been no change in how USCIS adjudicators review applications and petitions from any employer, including those on Guam,” said Timothy Counts, public affairs officer for the USCIS, in an emailed response to the Pacific Daily News recently.

Guam officials, however, have expressed continued concerns of a high rate of denials of petitions for H-2B foreign worker visas for Guam, and that it’s causing a shortage of skilled workers on the island.

“The continued H-2B visa denials have adversely affected Guam’s construction, health care and tourism industries, and we must work to ensure that we have an adequate workforce on island,” said Del. Madeleine Bordallo, in a press release Thursday.

Bordallo, who is seeking re-election, said she brought up Guam’s continued H-2B visa challenges during a recent hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs.

Gov. Eddie Calvo on Wednesday also said federal immigration has denied nearly 100 percent of petitions for H-2B visas from Guam employers, and if the trend continues, Guam could face a major shortage of skilled workers.

Guam would be left with fewer than 100 skilled workers on H-2B visas by December this year, said Greg Massey, administrator of the Guam Labor Department’s Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division.

In January this year, Guam had 1,532 workers on H-2B visas, according to Massey.

The rejection rate for H-2B visa petitions this year, through July, has been 99.9 percent, he said.

At USCIS, Counts said each petition for an H-2B visa is adjudicated on its individual merits and evidence presented, and the review is based on law and regulations.

“In general, we have not seen substantial changes in the petitions and submitted evidence from Guam employers,” he said.

Hiring foreign workers on H-2B visas is meant to address a “temporary need” for workers, Counts said.

“Some Guam employers have claimed two main factors driving the unpredictable, temporary nature of employment: the U.S. military buildup and international tourism,” Counts said. “If employers have been relying on the H-2B program for long-term, year-round workers, it may raise concerns that their petitions do not fit within the regulatory definition of 'temporary need.'”

A longtime immigration attorney in Guam, Ladd Baumann, has said in a previous interview that there has been no change in rule or law on how petitions for H-2B foreign visas are reviewed, but as employers continue to hire workers on H-2B visas year after year, then federal immigration authorities might see that as a red flag.

Bordallo has introduced language in the proposed fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which is working its way through Congress. The legislation would exempt Guam construction companies involved in military contracts and health care employers from USCIS limitations.

Bordallo has mentioned that one Guam construction company alone, Core Tech International, would have to let go of almost 400 foreign skilled workers if there’s no change in the high rejection rate for H-2B visas.

Once the defense spending bill passes, and the Guam provision remains intact, President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law sometime in December 2016, Massey said.

There’s a 120-day delay between the signing of the defense spending bill into law and the implementation, so Guam’s labor shortage could be eased sometime in or after April 2017, barring any delays, Massey said.

The proposed construction of a Marine Corps base on Guam will need several thousand workers, in addition to Guam's available labor pool, according to a previous military study.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2016 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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