On Jan. 22, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published new procedures for processing H-2B visa applications following this year’s significant increase in labor certification bids. Due to the spike in applications filed on Jan. 1, 2018, the DOL Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will now process these applications in order of the time of day they were received to “better reflect the sequential order in which employers filed applications.” Previously, OFLC processed these applications irrespective of the time received and just focused on the date. 

The notice further states that “the overwhelming workload this year has strained OFLC’s processing system and resulted in delays for the majority of all applications filed on Jan. 1.”

OFLC expects to process the first 2,400 of the 4,498 applications filed by next week, with the remaining applications processed in the weeks that follow. According to the notice “Employers receiving Notices of Acceptance can proceed to meet the additional regulatory requirements, including recruitment of U.S. workers and submission of recruitment reports. Employers receiving Notices of Deficiency that are corrected, and who then receive a Notice of Acceptance, can also proceed to meet the additional regulatory requirements.”

The current cap on H-2B visas only allows for 66,000 visas in each fiscal year. ABC believes that further strides to simplify this process, in conjunction with an expansion of the cap, are necessary in order to make this program an effective tool in offsetting the growing workforce shortages in the U.S. construction industry.