DOL Considering User Fees to Modernize Labor Certification Processing

By Roy Maurer Jun 11, 2015
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Representatives from the Department of Labor (DOL) provided clues to their efforts to modernize the labor certification process used to sponsor foreign national workers for legal permanent residence, including the use of fees to advance that goal.

The process, known as PERM, requires employers to adhere to a set of recruitment steps to demonstrate that workers are receiving at least the prevailing wage for the position and locality and that there are no U.S. workers willing to fill the position.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Portia Wu told attendees of the Council for Global Immigration’s 2015 Symposium, June 10, 2015, in Washington, D.C., that the agency intends to issue a proposed rule later this year specifically modifying the PERM requirements and process.

The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC), the agency responsible for the PERM process, as well as H-1B, H-2A and H-2B labor certification, is also undergoing a “thorough organizational assessment,” said Bill Thompson, administrator of the OFLC. “The primary operational issue that we are dealing with is the backlog. The fact that it takes a long time to get cases through. We have a formal plan in operation to reduce the backlog and improve processing times substantially by the end of 2015,” he said.

The PERM process has not been reviewed since its inception in 2005. Technological advances have significantly altered industry recruitment practices, and “the department has received a lot of feedback that the existing requirements governing the PERM recruitment process do not align with worker or industry needs and practices,” Wu said.

Some of the most frustrating issues include the lack of expedited processing, the inability to correct technical errors and the use of outdated and expensive modes of recruitment, such as newspaper print ads.

“Users of our system shouldn’t have to be frustrated,” Wu said. “We’ve undertaken to speed up the process, because we know employers depend on quick turnaround to make hiring decisions.”

Specifically, the agency is considering:

*The possibility for fee-based premium processing. Currently there is no application fee for a PERM application. The proposal would allow the OFLC to collect fees for PERM, H-2A and H-2B certifications, but not for prevailing wage determinations. Under the current plans, the agency could begin building a fee-collection infrastructure in 2016, and begin collecting fees in 2017, according to Thompson. “Collecting fees is a big deal. The number of applications for all certifications increased 77 percent over the last 5 years,” he said. Fees would enable the OFLC to “hire more people, more IT, faster processing, more stakeholder engagement, enhanced customer service and ultimately to create a world class system.”

*Methods and practices designed to modernize U.S. worker recruitment requirements. Presently employers must place job advertisements with the state workforce agency in the state of intended employment, newspaper advertisements on two different Sundays and a notice at the worksite location. “The current recruiting profile is not adequate, no question about it,” said Thompson. The agency is considering allowing employers to use more of a variety of recruiting dissemination options, he said.

*The feasibility for easily addressing technical errors. Currently there is no way to correct even typographical mistakes on the application form, leaving the employer to start over from the beginning after months of waiting for a denial. “The lack of 21st century IT is a real problem. We need to give people an opportunity to make corrections,” Thompson said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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