The Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General (OIG)

recently found that the Employment and Training

Administration's (ETA) lack of controls over the H-2B

applications process has jeopardized businesses that depend on H-2B

workers. The OIG investigated this issue after members of Congress

expressed concerns over reported delays in the H-2B application

process, which allows U.S. employers to hire temporary nonimmigrant

workers for nonagricultural labor and services. H-2B application

processing delays “could prevent employers from obtaining

foreign workers by their date of need” or “obtain[ing]

U.S. workers to fill those positions,” the OIG said.

The OIG noted that ETA did not evaluate the impact of its

overall H-2B process on two other agencies (the Departments of

Homeland Security and State) that are part of the overall process,

hold staff accountable for meeting internal application processing

goals, or manage resources appropriately, potentially affecting

jobs in numerous industries, such as shrimp and crab, landscaping,

housekeeping, construction, amusement parks, forestry, and meat and

poultry. The OIG review found ETA's mean time to process

applications at prevailing wage was 5 days more than the internal

goal, and at the processing center it was 41 days over the internal

goal. “These delays, particularly in seasonal industries,

would have serious adverse effects on business owners and local

economies,” the OIG said. As a result, ETA could not

demonstrate whether it ensured that employers' needs for

temporary foreign labor were being met.

The delays potentially affected up to 148,000 positions and

could have had adverse effects on business owners who rely on this

labor, whether a foreign laborer or U.S. worker would fill the

position, the OIG said. For fiscal year (FY) 2016, for example, the

OIG identified about 100,000 positions potentially affected that

were not processed timely. In addition, for FY 2017, the OIG found

that about 48,000 positions were affected because ETA did not

timely review 36 percent of the applications (133,985 positions

total certified).

The OIG recommended that the Deputy Assistant Secretary for ETA

develop policy to ensure that H-2B applications are processed

timely, develop a method for tracking and reporting on processing

timeliness for H-2B applications, and develop a staffing plan to

address peak seasons for receipt of H-2B applications. The OIG

noted that the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment

and Training stated that the agency has taken actions to address

these recommendations. The OIG noted that “ETA disagreed with

some of our conclusions; however, nothing in their response changed

our report.”

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