By: Attorneys Robert L. Reeves and Natalie Joy Ang
Prior to the implementation of the new labor certification system, Program Electronic Review Management (PERM), labor certifications were filed either as Reduction in Recruitment (RIR) or traditional recruitment. Due to the large volume of labor certification cases filed at the local State Workforce Agencies (SWAs), such as California’s EDD, many of these cases have been pending for more than four years resulting in significant backlogs. The Department of Labor (DOL) addressed this problem by creating two centralized backlog centers, one in Philadelphia and one in Dallas. The DOL recently provided an update on the labor certification backlog.
All pending cases at the SWAs or DOL regional offices have been transferred to either Philadelphia or Dallas. Cases at the local SWAs were forwarded to either the Philadelphia or Dallas backlog centers depending on the state the labor certification was filed. However, cases filed in California were sent to both Philadelphia and Dallas. To date, the backlog centers currently have 340,000 labor certifications cases.
According to the DOL the backlog centers separate cases into two processing tracks – RIR and traditional. Each track is handled under the principle of “First-In/First-Out,” meaning cases that have been pending longer are given priority. It is anticipated that the processing time for RIR cases will be shorter than that for traditional cases. This office has been receiving labor certification approvals for cases filed in 2001 and 2002, but the DOL has not yet developed a notification system for the public to access current processing times. Unfortunately, the DOL has also stated that it will not expedite processing of labor certifications for any reason including possible “age-out” issues.
As of last month, the backlog centers entered about half of the cases into their system. After each case is entered a “45-day” Center Receipt Notification Letter with a new case number is issued to the employer and the attorney of record. The backlog centers are notifying employers that corrections, supporting documents and responses of whether or not the employer will continue the labor certification must be returned to the appropriate backlog center within a 45-day period.
The DOL reports that backlog centers have started processing cases received from the regional offices when the 45-day letters are returned and data entry is completed. The backlog centers’ weekly production rates and IT systems are improving. The DOL is also working closely with the USCIS to provide proof of labor certification filings to allow 7th year extensions for H-1B visas.
If you have concerns regarding any of these issues, we recommend you consult with a knowledgeable attorney experienced in employment-based immigration law.