18 Dec 2014 Obama signs H-Visa cap extension for Guam, CNMI
YESTERDAY, President Barack Obama has signed legislation that includes 11 regular appropriations bills for fiscal 2015 and language to extend the H-visa cap exemption for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northem Mariana Islands.
Marie Sebrechts, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services supervisory public affairs officer for the West Coast, said the House of Representatives passed the extension before the Senate passed it two days later. The language in the measure extends the H-visa cap exemption for (tie) CNMI and Guam for five years, until Dec. 31, 2019, Sebrechts said.
CNMI Delegate Gregorio Sablan included the language in the $1.1 trillion spending bill. As part of the 2008 consolidated Natural Resources Act, federal law allowed Guam and tie CNMI to hire nonimmigrant workers under tie H-IB and H-2B visa programswithout the workers being counted as part of tie nationwide quota of H-visa workers allowed into the United States each year.
The H-visa cap exemption was set to expire at the end of this month, which worried some employers who rely on workers allowed into Guam through the H-visa program.
Department of Labor Director Manny Cruz has said there are about 1 ,300 H-28 workers on Guam most of whom are construction workers from the Philippines.
H-IB visas are granted to foreign workers with specialty occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or higher to
perform labor or services. Cruz has said the cap would greatly impact Guam’s H-IB visa workers and cited Guam Memorial Hospital as an example.
If the visa cap exemption was not extended, GMH would have problems bringing doctors from St Luke’s Medical Center in the Philippines to Guam. GMH and St. Luke’s signed a memorandum in August allowing professionals from St. Luke’s to help GMH doctors.
This is in addition to the five physicians that work at GMH and a dietician expected to work at GMH under H-IB visas.
The positions are critical to the hospital’s services. “If we don’t get the necessary extensions on these visa caps, the hospital will be severely impacted in all future recruitment of specialty hires like doctors and other clinicians,” said June Perez, GMH public information officer in an earlier statement.
H-IB Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require expertise and a BA degree or higher, such as accountants, architects, engineers, doctors and scientists.
H-2B Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to temporarily employ foreign workers with trade skills, such as construction workers, electricians, masons and plumbers.