Workers at a construction site weld metal structures of precast concrete slabs.

Texas has been one of the fastest-growing job markets in the country over the last few years. Between the population growth in the Lone Star State and the economic boom that has gone along with it, Texas is experiencing a period unlike any in its recent past. One of the fastest growing areas is in construction jobs. In fact, over 2,500 construction jobs were created over the past year, with Texas currently employing 822,000 people in the construction industry. This is not only the building of homes, but this also entails new office buildings, factories, and multiple dwelling units, as well as expansions of hospitals and other healthcare facilities to service the growing population of the state. With the demand for skilled labor so high in the construction industry, a great way for you to tap into talent for your business is to sponsor nonimmigrant construction workers from abroad. Your experienced immigration attorney can help you by filing petitions for H-2B visas for these skilled laborers with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

What is the H-2B visa? 

There are basically two types of employment-based visas, immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas, like the EB-2 and EB-3, are designed for foreign nationals who are seeking permanent resident status in the United States. This is also known as getting a green card. Nonimmigrant visas are different. These are designed for American employers to utilize the foreign labor pool for temporary workers to fill positions where there are labor shortages, like the current state of the construction industry here in Texas. 

The H-2B visa is a nonimmigrant visa category. This means that it is designed for foreigners to come to the United States on a temporary basis for employment. It is not designed for them to become permanent residents or to naturalize and become U.S. citizens. As such, this is designed as a way for employers to meet staffing needs in nonagricultural industries by bringing in guest workers. 

How long can a worker stay under an H-2B visa? 

When you sponsor a foreign worker under an H-2B visa, you can have them come to work for you for a total of 27 months over a three-year period. Basically, the construction worker that you sponsor will work for you for on a temporary basis before returning to his or her home country. Since there is usually a lull in construction work during the winter months in Texas, you can conceivably bring over workers during the spring, have them work on your projects through the summer and fall, and then have them spend their winter months back in their home countries. As you can see, the cyclical nature of the construction industry can suit the H-2B guest worker visa very well. This is probably why construction is the fifth highest industry when it comes to utilization of H-2B visas. 

What if the guest worker is married? 

If the prospective construction worker is married and/or has children, you can sponsor these dependents as well. The USCIS provides the H-4 visa category for workers who have been granted entry via the H-2B visa program. This allows the worker’s entire family to accompany him or her to Texas. 

What is the process for sponsoring H-2B visas? 

In order to sponsor construction workers under the H-2B visa program, you must meet certain qualifications. First, your business must have a valid federal employer identification number (FEIN). Second, you must have a physical place of business inside the United States, with the goal of employing foreign workers in your business in America. Since your business employs unskilled labor here in Texas, this should not be difficult to prove. Once you have determined that your business is eligible, you will need to file for prevailing wage determination with the United States Department of Labor (DOL). This will show the DOL the description of the work you need to have performed, the job duties for the position you are hiring, and where the work will be performed. The DOL will use this information to determine the prevailing wage for the job. 

In addition, you will need to submit a temporary labor certification with the DOL. The DOL will then allow you to begin recruiting for positions while the labor certification is pending. This will also commence the local recruitment period, during which time you will be required to seek construction workers here in Texas. This is important since the H-2B is designed to fill labor shortages, not to take jobs away from United States citizens and residents who work in the construction industry. You will need to provide documentation to the DOL and the Texas Workforce Commission detailing your recruitment efforts, including evidence that you tried to contact former workers from your business and the reasons behind the rejection of any American job applicants.Once this has been completed, you can apply for official labor certification from the DOL. 

Once you have completed these steps, you can file your H-2B petition with the USCIS. This filing will include a copy of the DOL labor certification. The H-2B visa operates on a lottery system, granting 66,000 visas per year based on a cap set by Congress. If your petition is approved and you win the lottery, you can begin recruiting construction workers through the H-2B worker recruitment process. Once you have successfully recruited the workers, you will schedule visa interviews for them at US embassies and consulates in their home countries, file the online entry application for the workers with the United States Customs and Border Patrol, and arrange for their entry into Texas to begin working for your business. 

Who is responsible for the expenses associated with the process? 

The employer is the petitioner under the H-2B visa, with the foreign worker considered the beneficiary. As such, the employer is responsible for paying all USCIS and other agency filing fees. It is also responsible for the payment of legal fees and expenses to its immigration attorneys. Finally, the employer has to provide Social Security numbers for each guest worker, as well as pay for their transportation to Texas and arrange for adequate housing. Nevertheless, if you are able to tap into the foreign construction labor pool, you will find the cost worth it as you are able to meet your staffing needs. 

If you are involved in the construction industry in Texas, let our firm help you with your foreign staffing needs 

Hiring foreign guest workers is a great way to meet the needs of your construction business. However, the H-2B visa process can be rather complicated. The experienced immigration attorneys at Zepeda Law Firm, PLLC, will help you get through the labor certification and visa petition process, so your business can get the skilled workers it needs for its latest construction projects.