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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.

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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.

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BALCA Provides Information About Proof of Additional Recruitment Steps

Recently, the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) considered whether dated screenshots and a CD with an audio recording of a radio advertisement constituted sufficient proof to establish that these additional recruitment steps occurred as part of the PERM process. In Matter of Waldorf School of Orange County, the employer submitted a labor certification case for the position of “Teacher.” The case was audited and the employer provided screenshots from its website that included the date and time to establish that it had posted the position on its website. The employer also provided a CD that included an audio copy of the posted advertisement that was placed on the radio and the broadcast contract. The Certifying Officer (“CO”) denied the case on the basis that screenshots did not constitute dated copies of the website posting as required under the law. The CO also stated that the employer failed to provide a copy of the text of the radio advertisement. BALCA reviewed the denial and reiterated that the “documentation requirement [for website postings] should be read with a degree of flexibility.” BALCA determined that screenshots are “dated copies” of the posting on the employer’s website and that an employer “need not submit a written text of a radio advertisement.” Rather, an audio recording is sufficient proof of the text of the advertisement that was carried on a radio station. Consequently, this denial was overturned. This case provides helpful information about how employers can document postings on their website and on radio stations to establish that they conducted the additional recruitment steps that are required as part of the labor certification process.

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BALCA Overturns Denial Where Mailed in ETA Form 9089 was Denied for Failure to Confirm Sponsorship

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) recently overturned the denial of a labor certification case that was submitted through the mail on the basis that the employer’s signature on the labor certification established that it was sponsoring the foreign worker. In Matter of La Hacienda Meat Market, Inc., the employer submitted a labor certification for the position of “Buyer / Produce.” The employer mailed the ETA Form 9089 to the Department of Labor because the employer was unable to pre-register electronically with the Atlanta National Processing Center. The mailed-in labor certification included a signature from the President of La Hacienda Meat Market in the employer’s declaration section. The Certifying Officer attempted to contact the employer three times by telephone to confirm sponsorship, but was unable to reach anyone. Consequently, the case was denied. BALCA reviewed the decisions of a number of cases that involved similar fact patterns and determined that “when an ETA Form 9089 is submitted via mail and includes the employer’s sworn statement under penalty of perjury certifying as to the conditions of employment offered, sponsorship is adequately verified.” Thus, the denial was overturned. While it is preferable to submit a labor certification through the online system, this case provides guidance that establishes that an employer’s signature on the ETA Form 9089 is sufficient to confirm sponsorship.

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Government Agency Actions - USCIS, ICE, etc. Green Cards

BALCA Upholds Denial Where Sponsored Employee Held an Ownership Interest in the Employer

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) recently considered whether a fair labor market test occurred when an employee owned 50 percent of the sponsoring employer and usually made hiring decisions. In Matter of Step By Step Day Care, LLC, the employer sponsored the position of “Daycare Center Director” for Jennifer Colyer. The ETA 9089 specified that the employer was a closely-held corporation in which Ms. Colyer held an ownership interest. The case was selected for audit and the employer responded with evidence that (1) Ms. Colyer and her husband owned the employer and each held a 50 percent ownership share; (2) Ms. Colyer held the position of Director; and (3) recruitment was conducted by Gail Green, a subordinate of Ms. Colyer. The Certifying Officer denied the case on the basis that the employer’s evidence did not overcome the presumption that the job offer was not bona fide because the employer was a “closely held corporation, in which the alien has an ownership interest . . . and is one of a small number of employees.” The denial was appealed. In reviewing the decision, BALCA listed ten factors that should be considered to determine whether a bona fide job offer existed in a closely held corporation. BALCA determined that the denial should be upheld because a true test of the labor market did not occur. BALCA based this decision upon the fact that (1) Ms. Coyler held a 50 percent ownership interest in the employer, (2) is involved in the management of the company, (3) is related by marriage to the co-owner, (4) is one of a small number of employees, and (5) was in a position to influence the hiring decision for this role. Cases in which an employer sponsors an employee who is an owner or is related to an owner of the sponsoring organization are often audited. Consequently, the Hammond Law Group suggests that employers speak to an attorney before moving forward with these types of cases.

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BALCA Determines that the Wage Listed on the Notice of Filing Must Match Wage Range on the 9089

The Board of Alien Labor Certification (“BALCA”) recently considered whether a wage range that is listed on the Form 9089 must match the wage listed on a notice of filing. In Matter of Doloma, Inc., the employer submitted a labor certification for the position of retail store manager. In the labor certification, it listed a wage range of $15.78 to $18.00 per hour. The case was audited and the employer submitted a notice of filing as part of its audit response that listed the wage for the position as $16.00 per hour. The Certifying Officer (“CO”) denied the case on the basis that the wage listed on the notice of filing was lower than what was stated in the labor certification form. The case was appealed and BALCA determined that the federal regulations provide that “advertisements must ‘not contain wages or terms and conditions of employment that are less favorable than those offered to the alien.’” Since the notice of filing failed to mention that the sponsored position could earn a wage that went up to $18.00 per hour, it did not properly disclose the job opportunity to U.S. workers. Consequently, BALCA upheld the denial. Through this case, BALCA reminded employers that the wage information provided in recruitment that is conducted in a PERM case must provide consistent information regarding the job opportunity.

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Government Agency Actions - USCIS, ICE, etc. Green Cards

PERM SYSTEM PASSWORD CHANGE ALERT

On August 25, 2014, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) implemented new password requirements for enhanced security. As such, on or before November 23, 2014, all Permanent Case Management System (PERM) users will be required to change their existing passwords. In addition, PERM users will be required to change their passwords every 90 days. The PERM system will send PERM users’ reminder emails as these dates approach. Please refer to the External PERM Quick Start Guide which can found via the following link for instructions on how to properly change an existing PERM password: http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/PERM_QstartGuide_ExAcct_Mgmt_LB.pdf. A word of warning, if an existing PERM password is not changed with the 90 day period, the PERM user will need to re-activate their account by identifying themselves, selecting a secret question and providing the correct answer.