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H-2B Visas: New Selection Procedure After iCert Server Crash

The H-2B visa program allows United States employers to hire foreign workers for nonagricultural services on a temporary basis.

The H-2B visa program is an important resource for both employers as well as foreign workers. In order to qualify for it, the petitioning employer must show that:

  1. There aren’t enough U.S. workers who are able or qualified to perform the temporary work.
  2. Hiring the H-2B worker will not negatively affect American worker wages.
  3. The work position is not permanent, but instead seasonal or temporary.

It is limited to 66,000 positions a year, with 33,000 assigned to each half of the year. H-2B applications are date-and-time stamped and processed in order of submission, due to the high demand. Due to its popularity, the program always receives a high volume of applicants. Employers file electronically with the Department of Labor through its iCert system.


The iCert Server Crash

The quota for visa applications requesting a start date of April 1, 2019 opened on January 1, 2019.  Within the first five minutes of opening the filing window, the iCERT server crashed due to an unprecedented volume of applications.  Based on DOL’s statistics, during that time employers attempted to file applications for 97,800 workers, far exceeding the 33,000 available visas.  The server remained off-line until January 7, 2019.

In an attempt to address the situation, DOL increased the system’s capacity to 50 servers and added a “CAPTCHA” feature to prevent applications by automated computer algorithms. They are continually testing and running performance-tuning on the system to ensure that it can handle a large volume of activity. They have also instituted backup solutions in the case of another server issue.  As a result, most employers were able to submit their H-2B applications on January 7, 2019.


New “Random Lottery” Procedure Begins in July 2019

The technical difficulties surrounding the H-2B submission process and the concerns raised by employers and their attorneys, compelled DOL to reconsider its filing procedures.  Beginning in July, 2019, in an effort to prevent another spike of login activity, DOL will implement a new selection procedure.  Rather than processing cases in order they were received, DOL will conduct a random lottery of applications filed within the first three business days of the cap period.

H-2B visas are given for one year. They can be extended in one-year increments, but the maximum possible stay is for three years. The H-2B visa process is complex and time-consuming. Contact the employment immigration lawyers at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP, to receive help with the H-2B visa process. Call us today at 212-203-4795.


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