Green Cards

August Visa Bulletin

The Department of State recently released the August Visa Bulletin and as promised, several dates and categories retrogressed significantly. Of note, is the India EB1 category which retrogressed to Jan 1, 2010 and the All Other EB2 category which retrogressed to Feb 1, 2014. It is also interesting to note that the EB3 Philippine dates jumped forward three years to Jan 2013 in the Dates for Filing chart. Although, it is expected that the USCIS will not accept filings based upon the dates of filing chart but, instead, use the final action date chart, it is nonetheless a confirmation of the bubble that most felt existed in EB3 filings, heavily dominated by RN petitions. The September bulletin is likely to see even more retrogression or a complete unavailability in some categories as the fiscal year winds down with a fresh start coming Oct 1.

BALCA Affirms that 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(6) Does Not Apply to Job Orders

BALCA recently upheld its previous decisions that found that 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(6) does not apply to state workforce agency job orders. In Matter of Pinnacle Technical Resources, Inc., the employer submitted a labor certification for a “Technical Recruiter.” The labor certification specified that the position was responsible for a number of recruitment related activities, including screening, interviewing, and conducting training of new employees. The case was audited and the employer submitted a job order in its audit response that stated that the position was responsible for activities that included analyzing payroll and benefits, employment verification, unemployment claims, and time sheet management. The Certifying Officer (“CO”) denied the case on the basis that the job order contained duties that “exceeded the job duties listed on the ETA Form 9089,” which was in violation of 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(6). The employer appealed the case. BALCA reviewed its prior case law and determined that “the denial cannot be sustained because § 656.17(f)(6) only applies to advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals. It does not regulate the content of SWA job orders.” While it is critical that recruitment match the job duties and requirements specified in a labor certification, the Hammond Law Group applauds BALCA for reminding the Department of Labor that job orders do not have the same content requirements as are demanded of newspaper advertisements and professional journals.

July Visa Bulletin

The Department of State (DOS) has released the July Visa Bulletin. It contains no surprises as the dates during the summer generally move at a snails pace. The bulletin does have some projections for the next two months.

BALCA Overturns Denial Resulting from Inconsistencies in 9089 Instructions and Form

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) recently determined that a typographical error resulting from inconsistencies between the labor certification form and its instructions could not serve as a basis for a denial. In Matter of UBS Securities LLC, the employer submitted a labor certification for a Director, Derivative Business Control Group. In the Form 9089, the employer listed that the position’s primary requirements were a Bachelor’s degree and 60 months of experience. The employer also stated that it would accept an alternative requirement of a Master’s degree and 36 years of experience. Per the federal regulations, primary and alternative requirements must be equivalent. The Department of Labor has historically found that a Bachelor’s degree and five years of overall progressive experience and a Master’s degree and three years of experience are equivalent. The Certifying Officer denied the case because it found that a Master’s degree and 36 years of experience is not equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree and 60 months of experience. In response, the employer argued that the Form 9089 “asks for primary experience requirement in terms of months, while the alternate experience requirement must be entered in terms of years.” Thus, the employer listed a requirement of 36 years in the alternate requirement section when it only required 36 months of experience. In reviewing the case, BALCA determined that the Form 9089 instructs applicants to state the number of years of experience. In contrast, the instructions to the Form 9089 directs employers to enter the number of months of experience. Since there was a discrepancy between the form and the instructions, BALCA found that “such inconsistencies ‘must be construed against the promulgator of the form and / or instructions, not the applicant.’” Consequently, the denial was overturned. It is critical that employers carefully read the requirements of every form submitted to the U.S. government. However, this case does assist employers who are faced with inconsistent requests in a form and its instructions.

BALCA Affirms that Travel Language Must be Included in Advertisements

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) has historically determined that employers must indicate in advertisements that travel is expected when a sponsored position has a travel requirement. In Matter of IT Works International, Inc., BALCA upheld this precedent. In this case, the employer submitted a labor certification on behalf of a “Sales Manager – Technical.” In the ETA Form 9089, the employer stated that the position would require “work at various unanticipated locations throughout the U.S.” However, the newspaper advertisements that were conducted as part of the recruitment effort for this case failed to disclose this requirement. The case was audited and the Certifying Officer denied the case on the basis that the employer failed to disclose the travel requirement. The employer argued that its advertisements “increased the chances of qualified U.S. workers applying because some qualified potential applications who initially would not be willing to relocate might reconsider after the employer had the opportunity to interview them.” BALCA reviewed prior case law and the Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s FAQ’s on the PERM program and determined that the employer’s failure to state the travel requirements in the newspaper advertisements was a “clear violation of 20 C.F.R. § 656.17 (f)(4).” Consequently, the denial was upheld. BALCA has routinely found that employers must include travel requirements in advertisements if the sponsored role involves travel. The Hammond Law Group urges employers to include travel language in advertisements to avoid these types of denials and is happy to advise about appropriate language to include in advertisements that are part of a PERM recruitment effort.

BALCA Notes Timing Inconsistency in 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(e)(2)

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) recently reviewed timing inconsistencies that are listed in the federal regulations that govern the recruitment validity periods for labor certifications. The employer submitted a labor certification for a “Stonemason.” The Form 9089 was mailed to the Department of Labor on September 11, 2009 and received by this agency on September 14, 2009. The employer listed on the Form 9089 that it had placed a state workforce agency job order from March 17, 2009 until April 15, 2009. The Certifying Officer (“CO”) denied the application because it stated that the job order was placed more than 180 days from the date that the Form 9089 was filed. BALCA reviewed 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(e)(2), which states that “if the application is for a nonprofessional occupation, the employer must . . . place a job order and two newspaper advertisements within 6 months of filing the application. The steps must be conducted at least 30 days but no more than 180 days before the filing of the application.” BALCA noted that these statements can be contradictory. In the instant case the employer did submit its application within six months of March 17, 2009 because six months from this date is September 17, 2009. However, there are more than 180 days between March 17, 2009 and September 14, 2009. Consequently, BALCA stated that it would “decline to penalize an employer for the inconsistency [of the federal regulations].” While this case does support the idea that recruitment may occur in the six months prior to filing a labor certification, Hammond Law Group urges employer’s to file all cases within the 180 day period in which recruitment occurred to avoid the potential for denial.

June Visa Bulletin

The Department of State (DOS) has released the June Visa Bulletin. As expected, the “dates for filing” chart remained unchanged. Unfortunately, due to high demand from I-485 filings, the “final action date” chart saw major retrogression in the India EB2 and PRC EB2 and EB3 categories. In commentary, the DOS stated that India EB2 is expected to advance forward only a few weeks each month through the end of the fiscal year (Sept 2016). The news is worse for both EB2 and EB3 PRC which are not expected to move forward at all until the new fiscal year (Oct 2016). Retrogression remains a major problem for legal immigrants but, is likely to receive no legislative attention in the foreseeable future.

Filing Fee Increases Proposed

At a time when the USCIS processing times for H-1 petitions and extensions have grown to over 10 months, the USCIS has decided to reward themselves with an increase in revenue on the backs of US employers and international workers. Today, the USCIS released a proposed schedule of fee increases. Pursuant to the APA, the public is afforded 60 days to submit comments. Our firm plans on submitting comments on behalf of our clients. Of the most commonly used filings by US employers, the I-129 base fee will be increased from $325 to $460; the I-140 from $580 to $700; and, the I-485 from $985 to $1140. The last filing fee increases for the base petitions occurred in 2010. The USCIS claims that the fee increases are necessary to provide service to its customers. What a sad statement.

BALCA Affirms that Content Requirements of 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f) Don’t Apply to Job Orders

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) recently affirmed that the content requirements that are specified in the federal regulations for newspaper advertisements in 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f) do not pertain to state workforce agency job orders. The employer submitted a labor certification for the position of “computer software engineers, systems software” and specified in the Form 9089 that the position required five years of experience. The case was audited and denied because the job order that the employer provided stated that the position had an experience requirement of “greater than 5 years.” The employer appealed the decision and noted that the Illinois state workforce agency job order site only provided a set number of experience options that included “3-5 years” and “greater than 5 years.” The employer stated that it choose the option of “greater than five years because it was the most appropriate since ‘3-5 years’ was not an accurate reflection of tis experience requirement.” BALCA reviewed Matter of Chabad Lubavitch Center, 2011-PER-2614, and noted that the requirements of 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f) only apply to “advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals.” BALCA also found that the federal regulations that govern job orders are silent in regards to whether the content requirements of 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f) apply to job orders, which lead it to believe that the Department of Labor “did not intend to impose these content requirements on all types of advertisements.” Many state workforce agencies provide limited options in regards what can be selected for experience requirements. This case instructs the DOL that it may not deny cases when the state workforce agency fails to allow employers to specify the exact requirements of the position.

Notice of Filing Is Not Required to List Every Job Duty and Requirement

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) recently determined that the notice of filing that must be posted before a labor certification is eligible to be filed is not required to list every job duty and requirement of a position that is being sponsored. In Matter of Eteam, Inc., the employer sponsored the position of “Programmer Analyst.” On the Form 9089, the employer specified that the position required a master’s degree in Computer Science or Engineering and one graduate course in database management and network security. This post-secondary education must have included software development using Unix and Perl. The case was audited and the employer submitted a notice of filing that did not state the education requirement or the coursework requirement of this position. The Certifying Officer denied the case on this basis. The case was appealed. BALCA reviewed a prior case, Architectural Stone Accents, Inc., which held that the federal regulations that govern notice of filings do not require every job requirement to be listed. While BALCA reiterated that notice of filings play an important role in ensuring that employees can provide information to a Certifying Officer about an employer’s application, it reiterated that the federal regulations “only require the [notice of filing] to contain information specific enough to apprise the U.S. workers of the job opportunity. The Employment and Training Administration did not write a regulation that mandates the employer list specific job requirements in a [notice of filing].” Consequently, BALCA determined that the notice of filing offered by the employer in this case was sufficiently detailed to inform U.S. workers of the job opportunity and overturned the decision. This case provides critical information about the content requirements of notice of filings.