As a result of extensive deliberations spanning over the course of several years, the Department of Labor (DOL) is closing in on making major changes to the labor certification process, including charging user fees for PERM applications. At present, the electronic PERM process – an initial step in many employment-based permanent residence cases – does not require fees. According to DOL representatives, this is about to change. At two separate events earlier this month – the Council for Global Immigration Symposium as well as at the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association Annual Conference – representatives of the DOL laid out DOL’s goals to improve and modernize the electronic labor certification system for PERM, H-2A, and H-2B, as well as for Labor Condition Applications which are adjudicated by DOL in connection with H-1B petitions. William Thompson, DOL Administrator, addressed the agency’s intention to charge fees to modernize the system by allowing DOL to recruit additional adjudicators, IT specialists, as well as review the agency’s current systems and current outdated and costly PERM requirements.
DOL Representatives reported that the steady rise of filed applications (the agency reported a 77% increase in applications in the past 5 years), as well as a decrease in resources and the use of outdated systems is responsible for the heavy backlogs. While charging fees would serve as a big change with respect to the processes themselves, as well cause an overall increase in the cost to employers, DOL assured stakeholders that the fees would assist in markedly improving and expediting the system, and in turn lowering the total expenditures for employers as the improvements are implemented. Specifically, the DOL representatives unveiled plans for DOL for the following improvements to be made with the help of the fee-based model:
- Expedited processing for an additional fee.
- Modernization of the recruitment practices currently required under the labor certification processes by allowing employers to use less costly and burdensome options for the mandated recruitment.
- Providing stakeholders with the ability to address and correct technical errors. At this time, there is no way to correct any errors on the application form subsequent to submission, including typographical errors, which leads to denials after long processing periods and the subsequent expenditure of additional time and fees to restart the process. Modernizing the IT aspects of the process will allow stakeholders to go in and make corrections to technical errors, thereby allowing the agency to take steps toward preventing denials based on non-substantive grounds.
The agency plans on starting to organize the infrastructure for collecting fees in 2016, with the actual fee collection starting sometime in 2017. We will continue to monitor and provide updates regarding this important change