Identifying Foreign Labor Options for the United States Construction Workforce


Labor shortages have plagued the American construction industry for many years. Mitigation efforts to resolve the shortage are multi-faceted and focus on different strategies such as training, recruitment, process improvement, and technology. The focus of this research is on the legal pathways to utilize foreign labor to supplement the domestic construction workforce. The researcher strived to define existing visa options, determine the most viable visa option, and deconstruct the path towards that option.

While the US does allow for several visa options, the H-2B Visa quickly became the front runner. The determination was made that H-2B Visas can be a viable option for a company, but initial hurdles exist. One main issue being the lottery that historically must be “won” to lock in your visa numbers, as there are more requests than visas available. Due to the “winning” of the initial visas being an unknown until the eleventh hour, companies new to the visa program would likely be limited to accelerating a current project. The bureaucracy of the system does not provide for reliability of labor for project startup due to the timing of milestones within the application process. However, greater reliability exists after the initial visas are received thus allowing for a company to have a return on their initial investment in the program for at least three years after their first visas are granted.

A company’s choice to begin the path towards the H-2B program will depend on a company’s risk tolerance and depth of human resources staff

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