The portion of builders experiencing labor shortages rose again last month. While long-term workforce development initiatives are underway, many builders have the same question: How or where can we find more laborers now?
A lesser-known option that could help temporarily boost production is the Department of Homeland Security’s H-2B visa program, which issues up to 66,000 temporary worker visas each year. But because most of the petitions for these workers are not submitted by home builders or contractors, the large majority of H-2B visas have typically gone to workers in the hospitality industry.
The number of these temporary workers may seem marginal compared to how many permanent workers are truly needed to have a nationwide impact on housing. But for some employers, the program might serve as part of a short-term strategy while other initiatives work to recruit, develop and retain more skilled workers domestically.
Employers interested in participating in the program can do so as early as Oct. 1, though they would need to begin the application process now. Here are some general guidelines to get started:
How do I submit a petition?
A petitioner (employer) must apply for and receive a temporary labor certification (TLC) from the U.S. Department of Labor. He or she then submits Form I-129 to DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
How are visas allocated?
Prospective workers outside the U.S. apply for visas from the U.S. Department of State. The skills of the eligible workers are then matched with the criteria sought by the employers, and the worker is then able to enter the U.S. at a port of entry.
How much time does it take?
Times vary from several weeks to several months, depending upon the employers’ eligibility status and the types of workers they seek.
Where is there more information?
Answers to many frequently asked questions are available on the DOL website as well as the USCIS website.
From 2-3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 6, NAHB members are invited to a free webinar led by Arnulfo Hinojosa, vice president of the Federation of Employers & Workers of America. With extensive experience processing tens of thousands of worker visas, Hinojosa will explain how builders can become eligible to apply and the potential benefits of hiring temporary laborers.
Click here for more info and to register. Or contact NAHB’s Alexis Moch with any questions.