H-2B program experiencing delays Email
Monday, January 18, 2016 02:00 AM

H-2B myths vs. factsThe following was posted last week by the US Department of Labor Office of Foreign Labor Certification regarding the H-2B visa program:

The Department's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is making this public service announcement to employers who participate in the H-2B temporary nonagricultural visa program. We have received a number of inquiries and correspondence concerning recent changes and delays in processing H-2B applications at the Chicago National Processing Center (NPC). The Department takes your concerns seriously and strives to support U.S. small businesses, consumers, and communities.

The Department, along with the Department of Homeland Security, jointly published the 2015 H-2B Interim Final Rule and H-2B Wage Final Rule, which became effective on April 29, 2015. The new rules strengthened protections for U.S. workers while also ensuring that employers can access foreign workers on a temporary basis when U.S. workers are not available. Additionally, the rules were intended to bring stability and continuity to the program. However, the 2016 Department of Labor Appropriations Act (2016 DOL Appropriations Act), enacted on December 18, 2015, contains provisions significantly affecting the processing of employer H-2B applications at the Chicago NPC. Unfortunately, the time required to implement these new legislative provisions is causing delays in processing employer H-2B applications filed prior to December 18 and that were pending with the Chicago NPC. Following an intensive review of the operational impacts of the 2016 DOL Appropriations Act, OFLC posted emergency guidance and has been implementing requirements of the 2016 DOL Appropriations Act, including new procedures and forms approved on an emergency basis by the Office of Management and Budget.

In addition, the current filing season has seen more than 1,700 new H-2B applications filed during the holiday season, an approximate 79% increase over the number of H-2B applications filed during the 2014 holiday season.

The simultaneous impact of the requirement to change procedures as the result of the 2016 DOL Appropriations Act, and the major increase in the number of applications being filed, has resulted in longer processing times in the H-2B program. This additional processing time may continue for the immediate future so that we can fully incorporate and operationalize the new program requirements and handle the increased workload. Our current efforts are focused on reducing the number of pending cases as quickly as possible without compromising program integrity.

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