January 31, 2012

Nowadays, there are various developments concerning the employment based green card applications. We will touch on these briefly.

Determining the job description is the preliminary stage of the PERM application. Once the job description is final, it is submitted to the Department of Labor for prevailing wage determination.  The prevailing wage requests were handled by the local offices until recently, but not anymore. Since January 21st, 2010, the prevailing wage requests have been determined by a centralized office.

 

There are pros and cons of a centralized prevailing wage determination. We hope that centralization in wage determination process will bring a standard while determining the wage for a specific occupation with the same requirements. Moreover, contacting a unique competent authority rather than corresponding with each local office is one of the significant benefits of the centralization. On the other hand, prevailing wage determination in a few days in states like NJ, and in 2-3 weeks in states like NY, IL, and OH are probably over. The centralized prevailing wage determination period may be extended up to 60 days. This issue has importance especially for H-1B holders who need to apply for the PERM application before the end of their 5th year. Therefore, preparation for green card applications needs to start much earlier. We recommend that the green card application process be started towards the end of the 4th year in H-1B status.

Moreover, there are serious delays in PERM processing. Essentially when the PERM system came into effect in 2005, one of the main purposes of the system was to avoid backlog and simplify the procedure to increase the efficiency. PERM applications which were approved in 30 to 60 days seem to fade away as good memories. Nowadays processing of PERM applications takes anywhere between 8 to 12 months. If the case gets audited then the process will take at least 24 months after responding to the audit.

So how did this happen? How come processing of PERM applications used to take 30 to 60 days only a few years ago and why is it taking 10 months to 36 months now? There are two crucial reasons for this; First time the online PERM system was launched, Department of Labor was focusing on issues with the software program to make sure that the application would run without glitches. In other words, they wanted to make sure that the software system for the online applications was problem free. After ensuring that the online system was running without a problem through improvements of the software, the main focus of the DOL is now the applications themselves. The DOL, through audits, wants to see whether the process is carried on a legal basis, whether the recruitment campaign was conducted properly, whether the applicants were eliminated with proper criteria, and whether the education and the experience requirements for the position match up with the criteria determined by the DOL. The second reason for the additional scrutiny in PERM processing might be the economic environment in the U.S. It should be noted that protecting the jobs of the citizens and the green card holders is one of the important tasks of the DOL. In a time when there is a high percentage of unemployment rate in the U.S., DOL’s first priority may not be finalizing the green card applications in a fast manner, rather they want to make sure the process is conducted properly.

Consequently, the financial environment in the U.S. affects the green card applications. One must brace himself/herself with this reality and begin the green card process as early as possible.