Frequent audits and weakening economy causing drop in PERM applications

It has been a year of frequent audits, huge backlog for I-140s and a recent prediction of decrease in IT jobs due to recession – all leading to a substantial drop in Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) applications this year compared to 2007.The Department of Labor’s Second Quarter Performance report showed that PERM applications this year were 46% less then those from the second quarter of FY 2007. It is most likely that increased audits and the threat of supervised recruitment have dampened the flow of new applications. Moreover, the US economy is going through a recession like stage and there had been a significant drop in skilled employment as well. The frequent audits have also caused substantial delays in clearing cases.

However, whatever is the reason, it is clear that employers are shying away from sponsoring PERM applications and the US corporate may take note of this waning enthusiasm or face a potential dearth of foreign skilled workers sometime soon in future. Especially, since that very corporate had come forward in the recent past to mention how more foreign skilled workers were needed.

Unemployment Scenario is Most Likely Unavoidable

The drop in IT jobs is of course not un-expected, especially considering the country’s unstable economy. This may also be taken as an indication of future trends in H1-B employments as well. Moreover, as we discussed in our article on AC-21, a drop in IT jobs will make it hard for foreign skilled workers to maintain steady employment till the immigration proceedings are over.

DOL On The Offensive to Maintain Integrity

Another cause for the drop in PERM can be the recent DOL actions taken against some of the countries biggest immigration law firms and employers for violating the integrity of the PERM program.

Immigration Firms have come under the microscope as DOL stated it found certain discrepancies in these legal firms’ actions. DOL has initiated supervised recruitment for pending LCs filed by a large law firm. Additionally, more recently, DOL has called for audits on all LC applications filed by some of the countries biggest law firms.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
has criticized DOLs actions against the law firms. DOL has initiated the audit as it had found the many employers had contacted these law firms immediately on finding probable foreign candidates for the positions, even before the recruitment process was actually over. AILA is contending that the PERM process is complicated and the employers were simply seeking legal counsel. The Association has further stated that immigration lawyers offer guidance and counseling from recruitment stage as part of their service and as such should not be penalized for their actions.

DOL also conducted a large number of raids on employing firms and issued harsher penalties for violations of PERM regulations. For instance a California-based software company was barred for three years for filing more than 100 applications.

Employer’s Need to Put More Focus on Compliance

While DOL’s actions may have had a negative impact on the number of PERM applications, these actions are also deemed necessary to streamline the process and reduce delays in future. These actions will perhaps push the employers and law firms into initiate stricter compliance to PERM regulation, which in turn will root out the weeds in the process.