Employers relying on the H-2B Seasonal Visa overseas worker program had a tough time right at the start of 2019. The electronic filing system of the Labor Department for these visas, iCERT, crashed on Jan. 1. The employers were unable to initiate the process to obtain overseas labor for work during the spring season.
The massive demand
The reason for this development was the massive demand. The employers came with the request of 97,800 H-2B workers whereas presently only 33,000 visas are available. This crash has many employers in a helpless situation, and they do not know the date when this anomaly will be rectified for filing. This will also delay the arrival of workers during April.
H-2B visas cater to spring and summer seasons and are used up quickly. The employers needing the workers in that time list April 1, as their starting date for the spring/summer season. Moreover, all the employers also started their operations on Jan. 1, which is the first day for starting the labor certification process of H-2B.
Demand peaked at thirty-times
In the first five minutes of its opening the certification process, iCERT faced extraordinary demand for H-2B certifications. The user demand peaked at thirty-times of the capacity of the iCERT system. The DOL is taking all the necessary measures for smooth functioning of the system. It will provide a notice of 24 hours before it commences the operations.
Increase in Demand
Furthermore these visas have popularity in the seasonal industries like amusement, landscaping, hospitality and forestry. There is an exponential growth in Demand for these visas in the recent years. As a result, the DOL is particular about the time of receiving employer filings. USCIS holds the lottery for these visas. The increase in the number of applications in FY 2017 was 25 percent over 2016. In the FY 2018 it was 5.4 percent more than in FY 2017.
Congress gave the approval to the Department of Homeland Security to double H-2B visas in the last two years. Moreover, the agency has added 15,000 for this period.
There is an equal division of 66,000 visas each year between the winter and spring seasons. The spring season has a heavy use, owing to the domination of landscaping industry in the visa program. Even the demand in the winter experiences an increase. Employers of the winter visas also jump into the pool and seek H-2B visas from April 1.
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