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Employers vying for the 33,000 H-2B visas (for temporary, non-agricultural workers) with an April 1, 2019 start date were poised last night to e-file critical document packets at one nanosecond past midnight, EST.
See: December 27, 2018. H-2B Application Filing Timelines: “The Department of Labor's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is making this announcement to remind employers and other interested stakeholders that H-2B Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, Form ETA-9142B, with April 1, 2019, start dates may be filed no earlier than January 1, 2019 at 12:00:00.000 a.m. Eastern Time. Applications with an April 1 start date that are filed before January 1, 2019 at 12:00:00.000 a.m. Eastern Time will be denied, and the employer will be required to refile its application. Filers are reminded that OFLC's technology servers are located in the Eastern Time Zone; therefore, the time an application is received is based on Eastern Time. Please reference the H-2B processing guidance that was previously published as an announcement on OFLC's website on June 1, 2018, for additional information regarding OFLC's processing of H-2B applications.” - https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/
NOTE: the OFLC was supposed to be unaffected by the #TrumpShutdown. See: December 27, 2018. OFLC National Processing Centers Are Open: “The Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is making this announcement to assure employers and other interested stakeholders that the temporary lapse in appropriations for some Federal government programs and activities does not directly impact the administration of OFLC programs. A full year appropriations through September 30, 2019, for all DOL program and activities was enacted by Congress on September 28, 2018. The OFLC national processing centers and the iCERT System are open and operating as normally scheduled.” - https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/
[Full disclosure: I represent many such employers, and one of my H-2B paralegals was in the office last night, working hard.]
Perhaps not surprisingly, just after midnight my text messages and email inbox exploded. iCERT had crashed, and no one could file.
DOL first posted this message:
The iCERT Portal System is currently unavailable.
We sincerely apologize for the major service interruption in the iCERT System around midnight. In the interest of equity for all stakeholders, the Departmentâ€™s technology staff have temporarily taken the iCERT System down. We are working diligently to determine root cause analysis and developing a plan to correct this situation as expeditiously as possible. As soon as we are prepared to bring the iCERT System back up, the Department will place a new public notice on the OFLC website and the iCERT System website.
Now, the system shows this:
We sincerely apologize for the major service interruption in the iCERT System early in the morning of January 1, 2019. Due to overwhelming filing demand, the Departmentâ€™s technology staff is working diligently to investigate the cause of the system outage and has temporarily taken the iCERT System down for the remainder of January 1st and until further notice. The Department will provide another update on the status of the iCERT System around 12:00PM EST, January 2nd, and separate advance public notice regarding when the iCERT System will be operational once again. - https://icert.doleta.gov/
Based on email listserv traffic, it appears that no one was able to file.
One would think that DOL would have stress-tested the system in advance.