Demand for H-2B Seasonal Workers Crashes DOL Site

 

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer January 3, 2019
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​Employers seeking certification for foreign seasonal guest workers in the spring and summer of 2019 brought down the government's electronic filing system necessary to start the H-2B visa process.

The Department of Labor (DOL) received nearly 100,000 applications for H-2B visa labor certification within the first five minutes of New Year's Day, the first day to file for the busy spring/summer season. 

The DOL said that the system outage was the result of unprecedented demand, with employers requesting 97,800 H-2B workers even though only 33,000 visas are available for the season. The visas are popular in seasonal industries such as landscaping, recreation, forestry and hospitality. Thousands of seasonal employers remain in limbo while the website is down, as labor certification is the first step of the H-2B visa application process. While the system is offline, no labor condition applications, prevailing wage requests, or temporary labor certifications can be filed or accessed.

The agency is working to get the system back up and running and will provide an update on the system's status on Jan. 3.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Growing Need

Demand for the temporary visas has grown exponentially in recent years, prompting the DOL to start holding lotteries for available slots.

On Dec. 6, 2018, the number of H-2B visa petitions surpassed the total number of visas available for the less popular winter season (those with an employment start date before April 1, 2019). Some employers that were locked out of the winter visas are likely jumping into the pool seeking H-2B visas after April 1.

(Lawn & Landscape)

H-2 Visa Job Ads Going Online

The Trump administration recently issued two identical proposed rules seeking to modernize the recruitment requirements for the H-2A and H-2B visa programs by allowing employers to meet federal recruiting requirements by posting jobs online, rather than in print newspaper advertisements. Employers would not have to post job ads in local newspapers and could instead use online recruitment options to reach more U.S. job seekers.

(SHRM Online)

Job Portal for U.S. Workers Launched

In support of the proposed online recruitment rules, the DOL debuted its own online portal Dec. 21, 2018, for U.S. job seekers looking for seasonal or temporary work.

SeasonalJobs.dol.gov is a "complete redesign" of the agency's Public Job Registry. The portal integrates its employment postings with third-party search websites.

(U.S. Department of Labor)

Hotels, Landscapers Targeted for Enforcement

The DOL announced a new "education and enforcement" initiative in Sept. 2018 focused on two of the biggest users of the H-2B visa for seasonal work—hotels and landscapers. 

The DOL's Wage and Hour Division plans to conduct more investigations of employers using the H-2B visa program and provide more compliance assistance. Key to the initiative is ensuring that employers recruit U.S. workers before applying for permission to hire temporary foreign national workers.

(SHRM Online)

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