Unprecedented Demand for H-2B Visas Leads to iCERT System Crash
The iCERT portal system, used to electronically file certain required applications for nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, crashed due to the overwhelming number of H-2B labor certification filings that occurred on January 1st, 2019.
The H-2B nonimmigrant program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peakload need or intermittent need.
The filing window for the H-2B program opened at midnight on January 1st, 2019. Within the first 5 minutes of opening the semi-annual H-2B certification process, iCERT received unprecedented demand for H-2B certifications with more than 97,800 worker requests. The iCERT system could not handle the user demand and crashed, or as the DOL put it, “experienced a system disruption”.
Due to the system crash, employers ready to begin the H-2B labor certification process on January 1st were left in the dark. Further, employers have not been able to submit Labor Condition Applications for H-1B petitions or prevailing wage requests for PERM applications through the iCERT system.
The DOL is confident that iCERT will reopen for service on Monday, January 7th, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. EST. A huge surge in user activity is expected upon the reopening of the system, especially in the first 15 minutes. The DOL requested that non-H-2B users refrain from logging in until at least 3:00 p.m. EST.
The DOL has taken the following steps to remedy the situation and help ensure that this issue does not arise again:
- Increased web server capacity to 50 servers for managing the increased number of system users who need to submit applications;
- Instituted a “CAPTCHA” feature at the iCERT login stage to ensure individuals, as opposed to computer algorithms, are interacting with the system, and;
- Will continue to perform intensive testing and performance tuning on the iCERT system to simulate the functional load volume and activity of a large number of simultaneous system users.
Any further updates will be provided here.