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AILA Doc. No. 19010231 | Dated January 9, 2019
On January 8, 2019, DOL published a public service announcement regarding the total number of H-2B applications that it has received for the second half of FY2019. DOL indicates that as of January 8, 2019, the OFLC has received for processing approximately 5,276 H-2B applications covering more than 96,400 worker positions. Most AILA members reported success in accessing the iCERT portal to file H-2B applications when it opened on January 7, 2019, at 2:00 pm (ET). Members who encountered issues or delays in accessing the iCERT portal should contact DOL at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The DOL Liaison Committee will raise the concerns expressed throughout this January 2019 filing season to the attention of the DOL during the next DOL stakeholder meeting.
The following alert was posted on the iCERT website on DOL’s website:
The iCERT Portal System is currently unavailable.
UPDATED ANNOUNCEMENT (January 4, 2019, 7:00PM EST):
Today, the U.S. Department of Labor held a conference call to update stakeholders on the status of the iCERT system. The Department is confident the iCERT System will open for service at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday, January 7, 2019.
Due to an unprecedented volume of simultaneous system users that included applications for 97,800 workers on January 1, 2019, the legacy iCERT System experienced a failure preventing applications for H-2B temporary labor certifications from being submitted to the Department.
The Department’s iCERT Rapid Response team has been working non-stop to address all issues. Steps taken to recover and restore stability to the iCERT System include:
The H-2B program is statutorily limited to 66,000 worker positions annually with 33,000 allocated to each half of the fiscal year. H-2B applications are date and time stamped to establish the order of submission, because of the demand for the program. A huge surge in user activity is expected upon the reopening of the iCERT System on January 7, especially in the first 15 minutes. The non-H-2B users should not attempt to log into the system until 3:00 p.m.
The Department’s iCERT Rapid Response Team will be monitoring the system’s servers continuously when services are restored.
Out of an abundance of caution, we have established and will be prepared to activate a backup solution should an unlikely new system disruption occur.
We understand how important our programs are for employers and realize this workforce is critical to meeting the seasonal needs of many employers across the nation. Thank you for your patience.
In a teleconference on January 4, 2019, regarding the iCERT system outage, the Department of Labor (DOL) confirmed that the iCERT portal will be re-opening on Monday, January 7, 2019, at 2:00 pm ET. DOL strongly requests that non-H-2B users refrain from using the iCERT system until 3:00 pm ET to reduce the strain on the iCERT system.
As previously confirmed, the iCERT system outage occurred due to an unprecedented number of H-2B-related users filing simultaneously on January 1, 2019, at 12:00 ET. At that time, employers had prepared 5,400 H-2B applications, which were in queue in iCERT for submission, seeking a total of 97,800 workers. DOL noted there were 22,900 server login attempts on January 1, 2019 versus 721 attempts in the same period on January 1, 2018.
The AILA DOL Liaison Committee provides the following notes from the January 4, 2019 DOL stakeholder call which provided updates on the iCERT system. During the call, DOL provided additional guidance for both H-2B and other system users impacted by the iCERT system outage.
To address the cause of the iCERT outage, DOL has increased its servers and instituted a "CAPTCHA" as part of the log-in process. CAPTCHA is a quick test used on many websites as part of the log-in process to confirm that the user is human and not a robotic software program. The DOL has been testing the systems for increased capacity and will have a team monitoring the system continuously as it is brought back online.
The DOL has provided the following guidance for H-2B users who will be filing H-2B applications once the iCERT system is available at 2:00pm ET on January 7, 2019, in order to assist with the system's efficient operation:
While DOL has confidence that there will not be a system outage at the time iCERT re-opens on January 7, it has established a back-up plan that it will share on January 7, 2019, at 12:00 ET. Please check the DOL's website at that time for further information.
Any questions for the DOL related to the H-2B program or the submission process should be submitted to the DOL via email: H2B.Ombudsman@dol.gov.
DOL also addressed the impact of the iCERT system outage on H-2A users. On January 3, 2019, DOL posted an FAQ regarding H-2A employers who were not able to file their applications 45 days before the start date of work. DOL indicated that the recent system outage would be considered a qualifying emergency by the Chicago National Processing Center (NPC), as well as good and substantial cause pursuant to 20 CFR §655.134.
The DOL further indicated that once the system is back online, employers with start dates of need less than 45 days from the date of restored service may file an H-2A application with the Chicago NPC under the emergency procedure. DOL suggested including a statement requesting a waiver of the regulatory timeframe for filing based on the iCERT outage.
Any further questions related to the H-2A program should be submitted to the DOL via email: H2A.Ombudsman@dol.gov.
As noted above, DOL strongly encourages non-H-2B users to refrain from using the iCERT system until 3:00pm ET to reduce the strain on the iCERT system.
AILA will continue to monitor this development and update members with any additional information or updates as they become available.
In an announcement posted on the iCERT website late in the evening of Thursday, January 3, 2019, DOL indicated that the iCERT system is tentatively scheduled to open on Monday, January 7, 2019, at 2:00 pm (ET). Senior leaders of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) will conduct a conference call on Friday, January 4, 2019, at 2:00pm (ET) to provide a further update on the status of the iCERT system.
From iCERT website:
UPDATED ANNOUNCEMENT (January 3, 2019, 7:30PM EST):
The iCERT system for application processing is tentatively scheduled to open at 2:00 p.m. EST on MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2019. The Department is currently testing the system to process a record number of applicants. DOL has made 50 servers available for processing, more than eight times as many as available for processing on January 1, 2019.
To offer a further detailed update, senior leaders of the Employment and Training Administration will be conducting a conference call TOMORROW, FRIDAY, JANUARY 4, 2019 at 2:00 p.m EST. to provide a further update on the status of the iCERT system. The conference call can be accessed by calling 1-888-946-6304 and using participant code 9462870.
In an announcement on the iCERT website today, DOL provided additional information on the cause of the iCERT system issues and indicated that further updates will be provided at some point on Thursday, January 3, 2019. DOL is aware of the impact this system outage has on other programs (i.e., PERM, H-1B, H-2A, etc.) and AILA will continue to update members of any additional information or updates received.
Within the first five minutes of opening the semi-annual H-2B certification process on January 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor iCERT system had an unprecedented demand for H-2B certifications with more than 97,800 workers requested in pending applications for the 33,000 available visas. With more than thirty-times the user demand on the iCERT system compared to last year on January 1, the iCERT system experienced a system disruption. The Employment and Training Administration, working with the Department of Labor's Office of the Chief Information Officer, is working diligently to have the system ready within a few days to accept a record number of H-2B applications. Enhancing system capacity and dealing with other factors such as the possible use of automated script programs during the application process are being addressed in iCERT to ensure certifications can be processed. As previously stated, the Department will be giving at least 24 hours' notice before the iCERT system is re-opened. A further update will be provided on Thursday, January 3, 2019.
Around midnight on January 1, 2019, AILA members who were attempting to file H-2B labor certification applications via the Department of Labor's iCERT portal were either kicked out of the system (timed out) or received error messages and were unable to file. In response to contact by the AILA DOL Liaison Committee, DOL indicated that it was aware of the technical problems and eventually posted the following announcement:
We sincerely apologize for the major service interruption in the iCERT System around midnight. In the interest of equity for all stakeholders, the Department's technology staff have temporarily taken the iCERT System down. We are working diligently to determine root cause analysis and developing a plan to correct this situation as expeditiously as possible. As soon as we are prepared to bring the iCERT System back up, the Department will place a new public notice on the OFLC website and the iCERT System website.
Shortly thereafter, DOL advised that iCERT will be down for the remainder of January 1 until further notice. DOL stated that an update will be provided by 12:00 PM EST on January 2, 2019. The AILA DOL Liaison Committee has been emailing and checking in with OFLC and will keep members apprised as more information becomes available.
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19010231.