A final rule – the PERM regulation — to change the process for filing and processing labor certification applications for permanent employment-based visas has been written. The rule is awaiting publication following clearance by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
If the PERM regulation is published as it is currently written, State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) will no longer accept labor certification applications. All other processes related to SWAs, however, will remain the same during FY 2005.
The Department of Labor (DOL) believes this rule will be published prior to the end of 2004 and that the program will be in operation within 60 days of publication. Until this point, SWAs will continue to accept labor certification applications from employers.
If, for some reason, the PERM regulation is not published, the DOL has developed a contingency plan. In this contingency plan, the role of SWAs will nevertheless change in FY 2005. Processing of permanent labor certification applications will still be shifted on January 1, 2005 from SWAs to one of two centralized, federal locations. While SWAs would accept applications from employers, the processing of these applications would take place elsewhere.
In order to deal with the backlog of cases, the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has created two backlog elimination centers (Philadelphia and Dallas) and certain federal staff members have been moved from regional offices to these two central offices. Addresses and additional information about these two offices will be published by the ETA in the near future. ETA believes these two offices will most likely deal with the backlog issue within two years; after that point, the two offices will be closed.
By the end of 2004, two national processing centers should be opened and fully operational. These centers, in Atlanta and Chicago, will process all permanent labor certification applications, with the exception of those backlogged cases forwarded to Philadelphia and Dallas.