Improvements in PERM Process10 Dec 2015
The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has been considering the steps needed to improve the PERM labor certification (LC) process. These efforts are a response to President Obama’s executive action seeking to improve the immigration process. The OFLC, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), classifies its efforts to modernize the PERM LC process into two main categories. The first of these is a review of the PERM program itself and the PERM regulation. The second looks at process streamlining.
Revised PERM Regulations Expected
The DOL reports a delay in the publication of revised PERM LC regulations. The most recent timeline estimate targets publication for some time in early calendar year 2016. The required notice and comment period will follow publication. Thus, the overall goal of the OFLC is to implement PERM regulatory changes before the end of President Obama’s term of office in January 2017.
PERM Process Streamlining Efforts
The second focus of the modernization efforts falls under process streamlining. The OFLC reports that it has limited resources for such efforts because it is not a fee-based operation. Therefore, the OFLC is looking for ways to make improvements under existing funding levels.
There are a few efforts identified as successful by the OFLC. The OFLC reports that, at the Atlanta Processing Center, the analyst review queue has increased production by 25 percent and there has been a 54 percent production increase within the audit review queue. More resources overall have been diverted to help reduce the audit backlog.
The OFLC has further recognized that the technology used in the PERM process for form 9089 does not have the capacity to generate warnings to alert the user of possible typographical errors. Accordingly, the OFLC is working to address this by implementing dropdown menus for some standard form entries.
Financial Constraints for OFLC / DOL
The OFLC voiced budget limitations as standing in the way of processing time improvements. The OFLC budget has been reduced over the years, while the volume of cases being filed keeps increasing. Case-in-point, for 2015, the OFLC reports an increase in filings of 20-25 percent over the previous year. To address this, the OFLC is hoping to convert to a fee-based system. This, however, would require Congress to change the existing law.
The PERM system was intended to be a largely automated, attestation-based process, replacing paper-based reviews. However, the DOL continues to audit a significant percentage of these cases. This creates a considerable amount of work for both the DOL and the petitioning employers, which, in turn, creates extensive delays. Efficiencies are almost certainly available through more limited and targeted audit requests within the PERM process.
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