Contributed by Amber L. Blasingame, Associate Attorney, Colorado Springs
Long ago in a state of mind far, far away, I remember sitting at my desk dialing the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) phone number incessantly, hoping the call would go through to check on the status of a case. My office mates and I would place bets on who would finally get to hear the phone ringing, much less connecting with an INS officer. The first person to connect with an officer won the honor of requesting status information on all of our cases. We had no idea how many more hours we would have to wait for a connection. I thought those days were behind me until today.
Ten days after the government shutdown ended, I am now sitting at my desk watching an hourglass icon spin uncontrollably on my computer screen. I am attempting to submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) and, if I can stay in the system long enough, a Prevailing Wage Request on-line with the Department of Labor (USDOL). As I write this, I have now watched the hourglass spin on multiple pages for 30 minutes and have yet to pull up the form I need.
While the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was not really effected by the shutdown, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC), under the USDOL, is considered non-essential and was almost completely shutdown, including its electronic filing websites. LCAs must be filed prior to petitioning for an H-1B Temporary Worker status from the Department of Homeland Security. Prevailing wage requests, also requested on-line, must be filed before a PERM Labor Certification Application is submitted to the USDOL. Both LCAs and Prevailing Wage Requests are submitted electronically through the iCert portal. PERM applications are submitted through the Labor Certification Registry website. Both iCert and the LC Registry were off-line during the shutdown.
Since October 18, 2013, the websites have been back on-line, but just barely. According to the iCert website, the LC Registry, as of today, is temporarily down until further notice. The iCert website is up, but requires a lot of patience. Each click to navigate the system means a 2-3 minute wait for one page to load – if you are lucky enough to even log-on to iCert at all. As of October 28, 2013, practitioners are reporting that it may take as much as one hour to submit an LCA from start to finish. Typically submission of an LCA for an experienced practitioner may only take about 5-10 minutes.
USDOL reports the long wait times are due to the heavier than usual traffic on the sites. The shutdown wrecked havoc with filing deadlines. PERM Applications and H-2A/H-2B Labor Certification Applications must be filed within a certain window of time from when recruiting started. Delays in filing LCAs and prevailing wage requests translate into delays in hiring employees and may equal thousands in lost revenue.
The race is on to make up for lost time. This week may be a good time for me to take up meditation. After 45 minutes of trying to access iCert I was one click away from submitting the LCA, and the system kicked me out. Its time to call upon my office mates once more. Please be kind to your immigration practitioner during these days of shutdown recovery – and remind her to breath.
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