The Department of Labor (DOL) has steadily increased enforcement measures which have in turn led to an increase in the amount of audits and processing times for PERM applications. By way of background, the PERM application is the first required step for many employers seeking to sponsor a foreign employee for permanent residence.
In a recent liaison meeting, the DOL revealed that in light of the country’s current economic crisis, there will be continued efforts to closely monitor the PERM applications submitted. The DOL took particular note of the 180,000 jobs lost in the last month and the 1.2 million jobs lost in the last five months. In response to continued layoffs, the DOL plans to increase supervised recruitment.
The DOL is currently processing all PERM labor certifications in four separate queues:
- Cases without audit (DOL is currently processing these cases with a priority date of June 2008 or earlier);
- Audited cases (processing cases that were filed in August 2007 or earlier);
- Appealed cases (processing cases filed in April 2007);
- Cases denied for clear government error and appeal pending (processing times are current).
The increased amount of audits issued on pending PERM applications has created a backlog in the number of pending cases. The slow down in processing has also been attributed to the hiring and training of new contractor staff. Currently, the Atlanta Processing Center has only 40 federal employees reviewing PERM applications, the rest are contractors. As a result, only 4,571 PERM applications were completed from October to December 2008. Notably, during this period the DOL certified 3,074 cases and denied 1,328.
With the contractors in place, the DOL was able to process 3,500 PERM applications in January 2009. The DOL has indicated that this level of processing will level off and it anticipates that the processing times will slow down again due to the limited staff of federal employees reviewing the contractors’ work.
New PERM Forms:
The new DOL online portal (called iCERT) for filing LCA and PERM applications is expected to rollout in the coming months. The DOL will start receiving PERMs through the new iCERT portal on July 1, 2009. As of August 1, 2009, all new PERMs must be filed using the iCERT portal with the new form. Additionally, the DOL plans to open the portal prior to April 15 to allow attorneys, agents, and employers to register as users. An announcement will be published in the Federal Register when the new portal will be available.