Could Lack of H-1B Cap Attract Companies to Guam?


With no end in sight to the H-1B visa shortage, some companies are considering alternative visas for foreign workers such as the L-1, and wecloming a rule change that extends the amount of time foreign nationals with student visas can work in the U.S.


In the absence of more sweeping legislation, they are also hoping for passage of H-1B-friendly bills such as one proposed by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) that would create a separate H-1B category for fashion models, in theory freeing more visa slots for tech workers.


In what may be one of the most unusual H-1B loopholes yet, U.S. territory Guam could become an option for companies that want to hire as many H-1B workers as they'd like on American soil.


Guam has received an H-1B exemption to ensure that enough workers will be available to prepare the island for 8,000 Marines being transferred from Okinawa, writes Computerworld blogger Patrick Thibodeau. The exemption is included in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, approved last month by President Bush. It will expire at the end of 2014.


For companies seeking an H-1B loophole, Guam may be it, writes David Cohen, a former deputy assistant secretary of the interior who is now an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP:

.. companies frustrated by their inability to secure needed skilled or unskilled employees might consider establishing operations in the CNMI or Guam as an alternative to assuming the risks associated with operating outside of the U.S. As one example, software companies might bring foreign software engineers to work in the CNMI as a way to get them "in the door" while they await the adjudication of their visa applications for work on the mainland ...

Any U.S. company wanting to establish operations in Guam would face some formidable challenges, however. As Thibodeau notes, it's a seven-hour flight from Hawaii. As a commenter to Thibodeau's blog post writes, it also has "one of the most unreliable power grids in the civilized world."


Back in April, I wrote about an interesting proposal to create high-skill immigration zones in economically depressed U.S. cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y. A key feature of such zones would be a lack of H-1B restrictions for companies that establish operations in these areas.