- The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will end its "first come, first served" processing rule and switch to a "randomly established" order of managing applications after a flood of applications at the beginning of January revealed weaknesses in the department's systems, DOL announced.
- Employers looking to hire temporary, non-immigrant foreign nationals by Oct. 1 will need to apply for temporary labor certification with the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) within a three-day filing window, effective July 3. The agency will randomly process all applications based on the requested employment start date and whether or not the application was submitted within the three-day window.
- The change follows a processing system crash in January that DOL attributed to the high volume of H-2B petitions filed on the same day. OFLC is seeking comment on the procedures until 30 days after this announcement.
Employers are likely used to the changes and setbacks that have impacted the U.S. visa programs in the last few years. The H-2B visa program originally underwent a switch to a "first come, first served" application process in response to the overwhelming number of applications received, but the switch created more problems than it solved, DOL noted in this announcement. H-2Bs remain in high demand; USCIS recently reported that the 33,000 H-2B visa cap for the second half of fiscal year 2019 has already been reached.
As employers in the hospitality and tourism industries struggle to hire seasonal workers, the shortage of H-2B visas during the last few years will likely continue unless Congress raises the annual cap to meet much of the demand, as it did previously. The Trump administration has been keen on its "Hire American" executive order, however; the U.S. Department of Justice and DOL announced a partnership in 2018 that intended to focus on protecting U.S. workers from discrimination by employers that prefer to hire temporary visa workers.