It appears the latest solution for H-2B applications is to do a lottery system. Actually two lotteries! Simplicity is not advancing, which adds uncertainty for employers dependent on immigrant labor. Uncertainty weakens business growth.
Changes to the Program
Beginning July 3, 2019 the department of Labor (DOL) changed the application procedure to randomly order for processing based on the date of filing AND the start date for the work. Once an employer has their applications certified it appears the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will have its own lottery,
The key for labor certification is the immigrant will not displace or depress wages for American workers.
First Come, First Serve
In 2018 the DOL began certifying based on a first-come first-serve basis, timed to the millisecond. Because of the limited number of H-2B visas employers scrambled to file their applications as early as possible. The crush of applications crashed the DOL’s computer system on January 1!
When the application period opened on January 1, the DOL received applications from 96,400 workers. However, only 33,000 visa were available. 30 times the number of applicants in 2018 tried to log on.
Starting with the next enrollment period, July 3, 2019, the DOL will randomly select for processing those applications that have a start date on the earliest possible date AND were received during the first three days of the filling period. After that applications will be randomly chosen for processing each day.
USCIS, for similar reasons, will hold their own lottery, which they experimented with last year. Again, just for 33,000 visas.
To help with the labor crunch, the Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to double the number of H-2B visas. The number might reach upwards of 133,000.
Still Feeling the Crunch
Confusing? It makes my head twist. I get the desire to protect American jobs. It just seems we don’t have enough Americans to fill out the crews Green Industry contractors want and need to have. H-2B helps, but really most contractors are not able to benefit. Labor will definitely be an issue for the foreseeable future.
-Scott Knowles, President of Wolf Creek Company