Employment-Based Green Card Filings Up in FY 2016

By Roy Maurer Dec 2, 2016

The Department of Labor (DOL) released statistics for the Permanent Labor Certification Program (PERM) for fiscal year (FY) 2016, showing an increase in the number of filings from the previous year.

The DOL received a total of 97,504 PERM applications in FY 2016, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. PERM applications jumped 17 percent in FY 2015 from FY 2014.

The PERM process is the first step in the employment-based green card route for many foreign nationals. It is a highly regulated process, with the DOL requiring:

  • Information from the employer on the job opportunity, such as the worksite location, job duties and the prevailing wage.
  • Information on the employer's recruitment process for U.S. workers, such as where the employer placed the ads and on what dates.
  • Information on the foreign worker, such as the worker's place of birth, education credentials and work experience.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Understanding and Obtaining U.S. Employment Visas]

Andrew Wilson, a partner in the immigration law firm Serotte Reich Wilson, based in Buffalo, N.Y., believes the main reason for the increase in volume over the last two years is the long priority-date backlog for Indian nationals. "The wait is so long that these individuals—as well as Chinese nationals—may be promoted or move on to new companies, where they are sometimes able to pursue an expedited EB-2 case rather than remain in the lengthy EB-3 backlog. This can trigger the need to file new PERM applications for changes in positions and employers. If priority-date backlogs continue, these numbers may continue to grow."   

Companies that are doing well and looking to permanently secure foreign nationals in hard-to-fill positions could be another reason for the rise in filings, Wilson said. "H-1B cap filings have been at a pretty high level as well, which usually connotes business stability and growth."

PERM Cases Broken Out

The DOL also released the top occupations, worksite states, industries, visa classifications, countries of citizenship and minimum education requirements for certified PERM applications in FY 2016.

The computer and mathematical occupation classification remained the most common for a PERM filing in FY 2016 at 58 percent.

Other top occupation classifications were:

  • Architecture and engineering (9 percent).
  • Management (8 percent).
  • Business and financial operations (6 percent).
  • Education, training and library (3 percent).

The most common country of citizenship for a PERM beneficiary was India (56 percent), and the most common visa classification was H-1B (74 percent). About half (47 percent) of PERM filings required an advanced degree as the minimum education requirement.

After India, the most common countries of citizenship for PERM beneficiaries were China (9 percent), South Korea (7 percent), Canada (3 percent) and Mexico (2 percent).

The top five worksites were California (24 percent), Texas (13 percent), New Jersey (8 percent), New York (7 percent) and Washington (6 percent).

Future of PERM Under Trump

President-elect Donald Trump has not specifically made mention of the PERM program, Wilson said. But changes could be in store, based on themes from Trump's campaign, including:

  • Increasing the job ad campaign recruitment requirements, changing the rules on how U.S. workers are evaluated against job requirements and raising the prevailing wage requirements.
  • Implementing a filing fee for the PERM process. "That has been proposed to discourage H-1B filings, so that same strategy could be used for PERMs," Wilson said.
  • Increasing workplace audits. Implementing a filing fee could be a precursor to funding compliance and enforcement efforts, he added.

Lastly, the DOL-proposed regulation to modernize the PERM program is still with the Office of Management and Budget at the White House. Experts say it now may not move out of that agency or the Trump administration could modify it to meet his agenda.

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