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Bill Would Allow Temporary Visas For Construction Workers

Rep. Lloyd Smucker has reintroduced a bill that would offer more visas to allow non-farm workers, including construction workers, to come to the United States. 


The Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act, which Smucker (R-Pa.) originally introduced last year but which did not make it out of committee, would create an immigration visa system for workers to do year-round, non-farm work. 

Under the terms of the bill, employers and potential immigrant laborers would both apply for federal approval to participate. The workers would be able to enter the U.S. only when they have received an OK from the government. 

“The Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act would provide qualified workers for positions that employers are unable to fill," Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), who co-introduced the bill, said in a statement.

"This would greatly benefit the construction and hospitality industries, which are facing severe worker shortages,” Rooney said.

The shortage of construction workers is a top concern of real estate executives in most parts of the world, according to a recent survey by the Urban Land Institute and PwC.

The majority (79%) of U.S. construction firms plan to expand their payrolls in 2019 but almost as many are worried about their ability to find qualified workers, according to a survey released early this year by Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate.

Separately, Smucker also re-introduced the USA Workforce Tax Credit Act, which would encourage charitable donations for community-based apprenticeship initiatives, career and technical education, workforce development and K-12 educational preparedness, all of which might eventually help expand the pool of construction workers.

There is no guarantee that Congress will take any action on the proposals this year, any more than legislators did in 2018. Also, current Trump administration immigration policy goals seem at odds with the proposals, since they might result in the deportation of thousands of construction workers.

In the meantime, construction companies aren't waiting for government action to deal with the labor shortage. 

Among other initiatives, they are rebuilding their recruitment and retention programs for more construction management workers and craft tradespeople. 

Construction companies are also joining collaborative training and workforce alliances and incorporating new technologies to address the industry's labor shortage.