In an extremely competitive market for H-2B visas, employers and agents rushed to beat the clock on New Year’s eve at midnight to be the first to submit H-2B worker applications for the second half of the fiscal year with an April 1 start date. According to the Department of Labor, applications for 97,800 workers were filed for the 33,000 available visas within the first five minutes. The overwhelming amount of applications received in a short amount of time bogged down the DOL's web site, ultimately causing it to crash. The number of applications received is over three times the amount of available visas!
The Department of Labor posted the following statement to its web site on January 2, 2019:
Within the first five minutes of opening the semi-annual H-2B certification process on January 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor iCERT system had an unprecedented demand for H-2B certifications with more than 97,800 workers requested in pending applications for the 33,000 available visas. With more than thirty-times the user demand on the iCERT system compared to last year on January 1, the iCERT system experienced a system disruption. The Employment and Training Administration, working with the Department of Labor's Office of the Chief Information Officer, is working diligently to have the system ready within a few days to accept a record number of H-2B applications. Enhancing system capacity and dealing with other factors such as the possible use of automated script programs during the application process are being addressed in iCERT to ensure certifications can be processed. As previously stated, the Department will be giving at least 24 hours' notice before the iCERT system is re-opened. A further update will be provided on Thursday, January 3, 2019.
H-2B workers are needed to fill seasonal positions in many different industries ranging from hotels & hospitality, landscaping, fishing, disaster relief, amusement parks, and the carnival and fair industry. With an extremely low (3.7%) unemployment rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many businesses to find workers domestically who desire seasonal employment. In the carnival and amusement industry, companies not receiving their workers could have a trickledown effect on many fairs and non-profit organizations across the country who rely income raised by carnivals to fund their organization, which goes directly back to the local economy. We have already seen apprehension from many carnival companies when making decisions on equipment purchases as they are unsure if they will have enough help to fully operate. When carnivals and amusement parks choose not to invest, this has an effect on many local US based manufacturers and suppliers who employ US workers on a full time basis.
Cap Relief is Needed!
Congress is back in session tomorrow and a deal could be reached between Congress and the White House at any time to end the partial government shut down. It is imperative that substantial H-2B cap relief, whether that be a permanent Returning Worker Exemption or the Tillis/Harris language, is included in whatever deal is reached to end the shutdown. The iCert crash proves that Congress must address the cap issue. The system would not have crashed if employers knew there was a sufficient number of visas available.
It is important that every Member of Congress is aware of the iCert crash and the fact that the demand is three times the supply. Use the template linked below to contact the staffers for your Representatives.
CLICK HERE to download a PDF template