More than 5,500 employers from Georgia and around the country began submitting applications to hire skilled and unskilled foreign workers to the Department of Labor on Jan. 2. Employers can use the DOL’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway System to hire temporary workers or additional staff to cope with seasonal or intermittent demands. Applications for about 100,000 positions were submitted, but only 33,000 will be approved. The DOL uses a random system to process temporary and seasonal foreign worker applications.

When FLAGS applications are successful, foreign workers are issued an H-2B visa. These visas were established by the Immigration and Nationality Act for temporary workers in nonagricultural fields. These visas are only issued when employers can show that qualified American workers cannot be found to fill the position in question and the hiring of a foreign individual will not adversely affect the local labor market.

The INA allows 66,000 H-2B visas to be issued each year. Half are distributed on April 1 and half are distributed on Oct. 1. The period for employers to submit applications for the 33,000 visas to be distributed on April 1 ran from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4. Applications for H-2B visas are assigned a random number for processing. Once an application has been assigned and selected, it is sent to the DOL for a more thorough review. If their applications are certified by the DOL, employers can apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the actual H-2B visa.

Many FLAGS applications are rejected during initial screening procedures because they are incomplete, and hundreds of employers lose the opportunity to hire foreign workers each year because their paperwork is received too late. Attorneys with employment immigration experience might seek to avoid such setbacks by checking H-2B application paperwork and ensuring that it is submitted during the filing window.