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DOL, Feb. 19, 2016:
OFLC Announces Emergency Procedures Initiative for Backlogged H-2B Applications
The Employment and Training Administration's (ETA) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is presently experiencing significant delays in processing employers' H-2B applications for certification. These delays have been generated by several factors, the most significant of which was a 17-day certification processing pause at the Chicago National Processing Center (NPC) needed for OFLC to implement changes to comply with the revisions to the H-2B prevailing wage and certification standards contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (2016 appropriations law), Public Law 114-113, 129 Stat. 2242 (Dec. 18, 2015). At the same time OFLC experienced more than a twofold increase in H-2B applications for certifications during a three-week period from December 26, 2016 to January 15, 2016, as compared to the same period last year (1087 application last year compared to 2420 applications this year). Also as noted in its public announcement on January 27, 2016, OFLC has been experiencing technical problems with its electronic filing system, iCERT, which resulted from the implementation of required IT security specifications that slowed the iCERT system. Each of these factors contributed to the processing delays employers are experiencing.
The delays in the certification process that applicants are currently experiencing impair the ability of employers to hire foreign workers when needed, and create instability for small businesses that depend on temporary and seasonal workers. OFLC has concluded that the factors discussed above, which have created the current backlog in applications, constitute good and substantial cause under 20 CFR 655.17 for employers to request emergency procedures of their currently pending applications. Employers with pending H-2B applications will have a limited opportunity to request the emergency procedures under 20 CFR 655.17, so that the Chicago NPC can address the current application processing backlog.
To read the full announcement of the Emergency Procedures Initiative and how employers can participate, please click here.
In addition, the OFLC will host a public stakeholder webinar on Monday, February 22, 2016, starting at 2:00PM to 3:30PM (Eastern Standard Time). To join the event, please use the below instructions:
OFLC Releases H-2B Case Processing Information
The Department's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is making this public service announcement to employers who participate in the H-2B temporary nonimmigrant visa program. Since the end of December 2015, the Department has issued several public announcements concerning recent changes and significant delays in processing H-2B applications at the OFLC Chicago National Processing Center (NPC). The significant delays employers are experiencing stem from the implementation of changes in program requirements contained in the 2016 DOL Appropriations Act (enacted on December 18, 2015), and the magnitude of the increase in H-2B applications filed during the late December to early January time period. In addition, during the course of several weeks in January 2016, the OFLC experienced technical network problems with its iCERT System due to implementation of software upgrades related to mandatory security requirements, which impacted our staff's ability to process case actions in a timely manner and caused additional delays for our employer customers.
Since October 1, 2015, the OFLC has processed approximately 2,000 H-2B applications requesting approximately 45,500 worker positions. We have certified approximately 1,500 H-2B applications covering more than 36,900 worker positions. Between December 28, 2015 and February 19, 2016, the OFLC has issued more than 1,300 Notices of Acceptance (NOA) or Deficiency (NOD) on pending H-2B applications. The OFLC has expanded and reallocated resources to assist in the processing of pending H-2B applications without compromising program integrity or the processing timeframes of other visa programs. We continue to focus our efforts on reducing the number of pending cases as quickly as possible and examining administrative flexibilities to increase processing efficiency.
To help employers better understand the current processing timeframes for H-2B applications at the Chicago NPC, the OFLC is disclosing case processing information through its iCERT System at https://icert.doleta.gov, which will be updated at least weekly.