iCERT Portal Down Since January 1
Within the first five minutes of opening the semi-annual H-2B (seasonal, non-farm) visa certification process on January 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) employer certification system (iCERT) for temporary foreign labor had an unprecedented demand for H-2B certifications with more than 97,800 workers requested in pending applications for the 33,000 available visas. With more than thirty-times the user demand on the iCERT system compared to last year on January 1, the iCERT system experienced a system disruption. The current annual statutory cap on temporary worker visas is 66,000, divided equally between the spring and winter seasons.
In an update Thursday, the agency said that it has made 50 servers available for processing, more than eight times as many as available for processing on January 1, 2019, and that the iCERT system is now tentatively scheduled to open at 2:00 p.m. EST on MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2019. Additionally, the DOL said that employers impacted by the site's failure may submit applications to the Chicago National Processing Center (NPC) by mail. However, the agency does warn that applications sent by mail will generally be filed in the system more slowly (first-come, first-serve basis) and warns against submitting identical applications electronically and by mail as it may delay the processing of the application.
AGC has long sought regulatory and legislative relief from the H-2B visa constraints to ensure the construction industry has access to workers. Efforts have included relief from the annual cap and streamlining and expediting processing. AGC has also supported legislation to create new visas categories for construction occupations that are longer term and without seasonal constraints. However, any larger immigration reforms in the current congress will likely have to wait until border security and other higher profile issues are addressed.