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Navigating Delays in the PERM Labor Certification Process

The PERM labor certification process is a critical step for foreign nationals seeking to obtain permanent residency in the United States through employment-based sponsorship. However, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) processing times for PERM applications have increased substantially in recent years, causing frustration and uncertainty for applicants and their employers alike. While PERM can be a challenging process, having a better understanding of the current processing timelines can help to manage expectations and alleviate stress throughout the process. In this article, we will explore the current processing times for PERM labor certification and provide practical advice on how to navigate the lengthy process with ease and peace of mind.

What is PERM?

PERM, short for “Program Electronic Review Management”, is the process by which an employer in the United States can obtain labor certification to hire a foreign worker on a permanent basis. The PERM process is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and requires employers to obtain a prevailing wage determination (PWD) for the sponsored position and complete a series of recruitment steps to determine if there are any U.S. workers who are qualified and willing to take the job. If the employer is unable to find a qualified U.S. worker after completing the required recruitment steps, they can then file a PERM application with the DOL to obtain labor certification for the foreign worker. Once the labor certification is approved, the employer can then file an immigration petition (Form I-140) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the foreign worker.

DOL’s Current PERM Processing Times

DOL periodically updates its processing times for PERM applications and PWD requests on the FLAG DOL site (https://flag.dol.gov/processingtimes). As of March 31, 2023, DOL was issuing PWDs for PERM prevailing wage requests filed in January 2022 (both OES and non-OES) and was processing redetermination requests submitted in June 2022. Currently at Maggio Kattar, we are seeing PWDs being issued in approximately 8-9 months on average. For PERM applications, DOL was conducting analyst review for PERM applications filed in July 2022 or earlier, and processing audited cases filed in April 2022 or earlier. On average, DOL is adjudicating PERM applications in 271 calendar days, with audited PERM applications being processed in 402 calendar days. At Maggio Kattar, we are seeing DOL adjudicate PERM applications in 8 to 9 months on average, which aligns with the most recent average processing times reported by DOL. As such, one can expect to wait 8-9 months for DOL to process the PWD request, and following approximately 30-90 days for recruitment, an additional 8-9 months for DOL to process the PERM, plus an additional 4 months on average is the PERM is audited. Overall, individuals going through the PERM process should expect to wait 17-25 months to receive DOL’s decision on the PERM application.

Advice for Navigating Long Wait Times throughout the PERM Process

The PERM process and the overall employment-based green card process can be a long and uncertain journey. However, here are a few pieces of advice to help employees and employers manage expectations and minimize uncertainty while going through the process.

  1. Plan ahead: Understand that PERM and the employment-based green card process can take several years, and there may be long periods of waiting and uncertainty. It’s important to stay patient and be prepared for a lengthy process. Employees should work with their employers and immigration counsel to begin the PERM process as early as possible. This is especially important for those employees from countries subject to immigrant visa backlogs, as obtaining a certified PERM is necessary to ensure that the employee will be able to extend their temporary work visa beyond the maximum period of stay. Extending the nonimmigrant visa beyond the maximum period of stay is critical for the employee to continue living and working in the United States while waiting for an immigrant visa to become available.
  2. Be organized: Employees should keep track of all the documents and information required for the process, such as your employment history, educational credentials, travel history, and current employment information. Make sure to keep everything organized and readily available for when you need it.
  3. Seek professional help: Employers should consider working with an experienced immigration attorney who can help guide you through the process and provide advice on how to best navigate any challenges that may arise. Our team at Maggio Kattar is experienced in all aspects of PERM and the employment-based green card process and are ready to provide expert guidance on the best strategy for your case.
  4. Stay informed: Keep up to date with any updates to DOL processing times or changes in immigration laws and policies that may affect your case. This will help you be better prepared for any changes or new requirements that may arise. Individuals from countries subject to the visa backlog should also regularly check the Visa Bulletin to track the movement of priority dates for their specific category and country. It’s important to understand that the immigration process, including the availability of immigrant visas and the movement of priority dates, can be subject to change based on various factors, including government policies, visa demand, and visa availability.
  5. Stay in touch with your employer and attorney. Employees should also stay in touch with their employer and immigration attorney to remain informed about the progress of their case and to update any changes in their employment status.
  6. Maintain legal status: It’s crucial to maintain lawful immigration status throughout the entire process. Ensure that you have a valid visa or other appropriate immigration status and adhere to all immigration laws and regulations to avoid any potential issues with your green card application.

Remember, the PERM and employment-based green card process can be challenging, but with patience, organization, and professional help, it is possible to successfully navigate the process and achieve your immigration goals.