Construction, housekeeping, forestry, landscaping, amusement park entertainment, shrimp, crab, meat, and poultry industries may all have been adversely affected by inefficient processing of temporary nonimmigrant worker applications, according to a recent Department of Labor (DOL) finding issued by its Office of Inspector General (OIG).

H-2B applications allow U.S. employers to hire temporary nonimmigrant workers for nonagricultural and labor services. After members of U.S. Congress reported slowdowns in the H-2B process, the DOL started an OIG investigation of the Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) role and authority in processing these applications.

The OIG found that the ETA’s lack of control over H-2B applications endangers companies and industries that depend on H-2B workers.

Processing delays hurt employers who need to employ these workers or obtain U.S. workers by their date of need, the OIG said.

Among other inefficiencies, the OIG found that ETA did not manage resources effectively, failed to hold staff accountable for meeting goals set for application processing, and unreasonably delayed operations.

In 2016, about 100,000 H-2B positions were potentially adversely affected because applications were not processed in a timely manner. In 2017, another 48,000 faced similar slowdowns. This was a total of 36 percent of total 2017 applications that were not efficiently processed to ensure adequate labor supply for the industries in need of H-2B workers.

When measured against stated internal goals, the ETA’s average application processing time was five days late and its processing center applications were 41 days late.

In seasonal industries particularly, these delays could have seriously adverse effects, the OIG said.

Without data showing compliance with reasonable processing timelines, it is unclear whether employers’ needs for foreign temporary labor are being met.

The OIG suggested ETA reforms, including improved tracking and reporting procedures and adequate staffing plans for peak H-2B seasons.

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