Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

H-2B Articles

DOL Performance Report for 2009Q2

The Department of Labor (”DOL”) has released a quarterly report covering the second quarter of 2009 (ending on June 31, 2009) which report indicates the performance measurements for four categories of labor certifications performed by DOL:

H-1B Labor Condition Applications (”LCA”).  The target performance rate set by DOL is seven (business) days.  For the second quarter, the performance rate was 99.11% of the goal, meaning that DOL responded to nearly all  LCA applications within the mandatory seven days.  This however, reflects statistics from the old, pre-iCert, system which used to provide instant LCA certification.  Under the new iCert LCA system, the LCAs are reviewed manually and from our experience an LCA takes up to 7 business days to certify.  The iCert system went into effect on June 30, 2009.

PERM Labor Certifications.  The target performance rate is review within six months of filing of PERM.  Unfortunately, the reported rate of PERM certifications which fell within the target of six months is only 17%.  Although this is a slight increase compared to 2009Q1 performance rate of 11%, it is still a very low performance rate and confirms our experience from earlier this year that DOL takes upward of 9 months to certify PERM applications.  DOL’s explanation is that such increased processing time is due to increased integrity checks in light of declining economy and continued PERM filings for positions where there are U.S. workers available (for example, financial services).  DOL plans to institute a new electronic filing system for PERM labor certifications around July 1, 2010.

H-2A and H-2BThe performance target for H-2A is 15 business days while the performance target for H-2B is 60 days.  The on-target performance was 54% (increase from last quarter’s 38%) for H-2A and 87% (increase from last quarter’s 31%) for H-2B.  An important note is that the H-2B regulations were revised as of January 2009 and the numbers do not reflect properly the new H-2B rules.  It should be also noted that the H-2B program performance incrase is a seasonal occurrence and even taking into consideration this performance improvement, the overall performance is under the annual target.

Conclusion.  There seems to be increased delays overall in some categories.  Most troubling are the significant PERM delays.  We have written previously about the delays in PERM processing (which seem to be improving slightly) but  the PERM performance chart for the past eight quarters suggests that return to 6-month processing PERM is far.  Additionally, LCAs for H-1B applications now take up to seven business days which adds a week of processing to all H-1B applications.  For employers who are not part of the iCert system, there may be an additional 2-5 days iCert employer verification period.   As a result, we urge our clients to factor this processing time when planning business and employment decisions with respect to H-1B workers.

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USCIS to Accept New H-2B Fiscal Year 2009 Petitions

The H-2B filing period for fiscal year 2009 (FY2009) has been reopened by USCIS due to insufficient applications filed under the cap.  Accordingly, USCIS accepts immediately new H-2B petitions under the FY2009 cap for starting work date before October 1, 2009.

FY2009 H-2B Numbers Are Under the Quota

On January 7, 2009,  USCIS announced that it has accepted a sufficient number of H-2B petitions to meet the annual cap of 66,000 H-2B visas.  However, the Department of State has received far fewer than expected requests for H-2B visas and as a result, has issued only 40,640 H-2B visas for fiscal year 2009 to date. This means that there are approximately 25,000 visas that may go unused, as they have not been granted. Because of the low visa issuance rate, USCIS is reopening the filing period to allow employers to file additional petitions for qualified H-2B temporary foreign nonagricultural workers.

FY2009 Filing Deadline Is Imminent

The normal (non-premium processing) adjudication time frame for H-2B petitions is 60 days. USCIS will make visa numbers available to petitions in the order in which the petitions are filed. However, because H-2B petitions (Form I-129) for fiscal year 2009 visas must be received, evaluated, and adjudicated on or before the fiscal year 2009 deadline of Sept. 30, 2009, USCIS cannot guarantee approval of any H-2B petition on or before the Sept. 30, 2009 deadline. Employers therefore are encouraged to file as soon as possible and to request premium processing by filing a Form I-907 and
submitting the $1000 premium processing fee, which will allow for expedited adjudication before October 1.

Petitions received on or after Oct. 1, 2009, and/or requesting a starting date on or after Oct. 1, 2009, will be considered towards the fiscal year 2010 H-2B cap and are subject to all eligibility requirements for fiscal year 2010 H-2B filings, including 8 CFR 214.2(h)(6)(iv)(D), which requires that the start date listed on the petition be the same as the starting date authorized on the temporary labor certification.

Please see a USCIS FAQ regarding this H-2B filing window reopening.

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List of H-2B Eligible Countries

The Federal Register has published a rule (73 FR 77729, 12/19/08) pursuant to which nationals of the following countries can apply for H-2B visas:

Costa Rica;
Dominican Republic;
El Salvador;
New Zealand;
South Africa;
South Korea;
United Kingdom.

It should be noted that individuals already holding H-2B visas are not affected by this rule.

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H-2B Cap Reached for Second Half of FY2009

USCIS announced yesterday, January 8, 2009, that it has received sufficient number of applications under the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2009 (FY2009).  USCIS is notifying the public that Jan. 7, 2009 was the “final receipt date” for new H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates prior to October 1, 2009.  The “final receipt date” is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 33,000 H-2B workers for the second half of FY2009.

USCIS will reject petitions for new H-2B workers seeking employment start dates prior to October 1, 2009 that arrive after Jan. 7, 2009.

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H-2B Cap Update

USCIS released an update, dated December 15, 2008, of the number of H-2B petitions received and counted towards the H-2B cap for the second half of FY 2009.  As of November 12, 2008, 18,367 petitions have been counted towards the 33,000 cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2009.

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H-2B Cap Update

USCIS released an update, dated November 24, 2008, of the number of H-2B petitions received and counted towards the H-2B cap.  As of November 21, 2008, 10,265 petitions have been counted towards the 33,000 cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2009.

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H2-B Cap Reached

On July 30, the USCIS announced that it has reached the H-2B cap for the first half of the fiscal year 2009.  According to this announcement, July 29, 2008 is the “final receipt date” for H-2B petitions.  All petitions received after July 29, 2008 for H-2B with starting date of April 1, 2009 will be rejected.

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H-2B Numbers Update – Cap Limit is Near

USCIS updated the H-2B cap numbers as of July 21st.  As of that date, there have been 29,234 petitions counted towards the 33,000 cap for the first half of the fiscal year.  With the current rate, the H-2B cap is expected to be reached within a week or so.

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Update on H-2B Visa Count

USCIS has provided two recent updates on the numbers on the H-2B visa count.  The two recent updates are useful because it allows us to sample the rate at which H-2B visa numbers are being used.

The July 1 announcement stated that the H-2B count, as of July 1, stands at 17,305 for the first half of FY 2009.  The July 7 announcement stated that the H-2B count, as of July 7, stands at 20,390, an increase of nearly 3,000 over a period of less than a week. It should be noted that the period included the July 4th holiday, so it is safe to assume that the actual filing rate is somewhat higher.

The cap for the first half of FY 2009 is set at 33,000, so based on current demand at a rate of 3,000 visa petitions in 6 days, we anticipate that the remaining numbers will be exhausted some time in August.  This expectation assumes that the rate of 3,000 visa petitions per 6 days will not change.

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DOL Perm and H-2A/B Processing Statistics

The Department of Labor has released an interesting report regarding the number of PERM and H-2A/H-2B labor certifications.

For the period between October and December 2007, DOL received almost 20,000 PERM on-line submissions and slightly over 1,000 mail-in submissions. DOL completed work on 16,200 cases, of which 12,500 were certified (78% certification rate), 2,800 were denied (17%) and 800 were withdrawn (5%).

It is interesting to compare the approval rates for the Oct-Dec 2007 period with the historical certification rate since PERM started in March 2005. The historical overall certification rate is slightly above 78% which seems to indicate that the Oct-Dec 2007 certification rate was in line with historical averages.

Among other interesting findings in the report are the top five states of intended employment – California (23%), New York (10%), New Jersey (7%), Texas (7%) and Florida (6%). Few would be surprised that Indian nationals were the top nationality with 28% of all certified applications and computer software engineers were the top occupation with 17%.

In the H-2A/H-2B section of the report, it is worth noting that there was a significant increase in both the number of requested and certified labor certifications for both the agricultural and non-agricultural programs in FY07 compared to FY06. This seems to suggest that more employers are resorting to H-2 visas to obtain temporary labor. [See our recent post on H-2B cap.]

The relevant portion of the DOL report can be read here (PDF).

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