Construction worker
“I own a construction business in the U.S. It is quite successful and I employ several people. My father was born in Ireland and I have many family members there, one of whom would like to come and live in the U.S. He has worked in construction in Ireland for a few years, and I would be willing to sponsor him for a green card to live here. Is this possible, and how would I go about it? He is pretty desperate to leave Ireland, but he does not want to live here illegally because he wants the freedom to go back and forth.”

It will be difficult to sponsor your relative for permanent residence (a green card) based on his background as a construction worker – difficult, but not necessarily impossible.

But what you should know is that there will be no quick fix to your relative’s desire to leave Ireland and obtain a green card at the same time. Employment-based green cards for skilled and unskilled workers are currently taking at least six years to process, but we’ll outline what it entails anyway, and also take a look at a non-immigrant visa, the H-2B, that will almost certainly be a better fit.

The relevant employment-based green card category, the EB-3, is for professional workers (a bachelor’s degree is required), skilled workers (at least two years of training in the relevant field is required), and unskilled workers. At least 40,000 EB-3 green cards are available for distribution each year.

What do they require? A job offer from a U.S. employer for a start. The process will also be costly because it will definitely have to be guided by a skilled immigration attorney.

The employer/attorney have to obtain a permanent labor certification (PERM) for the prospective employee from the Department of Labor prior to filing the visa petition.

PERM certifications take several months to obtain, but great strides were taken by the Department of Labor to eliminate massive PERM backlog that existed prior to fiscal year 2010, when there were more than 66,000 applications pending, with an average processing time of 13 months. That backlog has now been eliminated, and PERM applicants can expect to wait in the region of six months or so.

PERM certification is intended to prove, in a nutshell, that no qualified Americans exist for the job on offer, and that prevailing wage standards will be met by the employer.

With regards to construction workers, it is possible to receive PERM certification, but the applicant will have to possess a skill that requires the aforementioned two years of experience – such as a foreman, for example.

Simply working on job sites as a laborer won’t cut it. Someone with this skill set could look at the unskilled worker EB-3 visa as an option . . . if they are willing to wait, and wait.

Given that only 40,000 EB-3 green cards are available annually, there is a supply and demand problem. For the month of January 2012, EB-3 petitions filed on or before January 15, 2006 are being processed.

Those in a hurry definitely shouldn’t think about using the EB-3 option.

The H-2B visa program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come temporarily to the U.S. and perform temporary nonagricultural services or labor on a one-time, seasonal, peakload or intermittent basis. The visa can be issued for up to three years, and the applicant must be from one of the 50-odd countries allowed to participate in the program (Ireland and the U.K. are approved).

Again, foreigners have to have a job offer from a U.S. employer, and go through the labor certification process, though it’s not as time-consuming as PERM.

There are 66,000 H-2B visas available each year, and the quota fills fairly fast. The visa takes a matter of months to process, not years, so if your relative qualifies, the H-2B could be a great option. You should talk about his particulars with an immigration attorney and then formulate a plan.