2021 AILA Conference Day 3 Session 4: Updates from Department of Labor Open Forum
2021 AILA Conference Department of Labor (DOL) Open Forum:
In this video, Attorney Joseph Tsang gives his synopsis of some of the changes discussed in the Department of Labor Open Forum. The most important ones include that the DoL is hiring and modernizing its systems.
Learn more by watching the full video.
Full Video Transcript
Hi everyone, this is Joseph. Welcome to day three session four of AILA’s 2021 conference. I’m reviewing this video, and right now, we just finished watching the Department of Labor open forum. It was the most friendly of the open forums so far and also the most diverse—props to the Department of Labor. (You would expect that from the Department of Labor.)
In our last video, we were discussing the strategy on how to deal with perm certifications, and we were worried a little bit that this particular video and that video is going to have a huge overlap because it’s all dealing with work remote. But luckily, the open forum had a lot of key updates that’s not related at all, so there’s no overlap. Let’s get to it.
[Tsang Intro Splash]
[0:41] So the first big news is that the Department of Labor is hiring and hiring aggressively. They’re expanding their base, they got the funding for it, so if you are interested in working for the Department of Labor, feel free to apply. This is not just for immigration purposes, but if you really want a job at the Department of Labor.
One of the key questions the AILA moderators are pressing is when are the prevailing wage determinations going to get back to the original 90 days? Because now it’s already averaging 120-130 days, and in some cases, we see even up to six months. That is such a long time for the very, very first baby step of the immigration process that already takes years, something like five years to do, and if the first one is already being pushed back like six months to a year, it’s so uncomfortable. And so the Labor Department is aggressively hiring and training up their staff so that they can do this. That’s the first big update.
[1:34] The second big announcement got all of us PERM practitioners geeking out. They’re going to modernize the Department of Labor under the Biden initiative, just like USCIS. And what they’re going to do is they’re going to take PERM applications, the one that’s like 15-20 years old that’s super clunky, and they’re going to take that and combine it with the flag system. They’re going to have a messaging board. They’re going to have a dedicated analyst when you submit applications, you can have direct inquiries with them. Who knows, they might even have a chat box. This was like the CES event announcement or it’s kind of like the Apple keynote event or just big things just launching out. I hope they can get it done within this next year.
And it’s totally okay that they are postponing one year the big announcement for the wage determination stuff, right? The original 2018 codes that were supposed to release this year, they’re pushing it back next year. Well, part of the reason is that they have to train and hire so many people. They have to adjust to the new work remote policies, the new wage increases, and potentially modernizing this entire system. So their efforts are going to that, and you know what, I’ll take that.
[2:38] Now comes the bad, right? So if the SOC codes can’t be updated this year, postponed to next year, there’s already a bunch of complications. Duties and wage levels are not matching up with O*NET. What do we do? That question wasn’t specifically answered. Of course, that’s my question, and I’m sure that’s everybody’s question, and the answer is probably going to be we just have to document everything. So USCIS sees it, understands it, and hopefully approves it. And so our work as attorneys, as HR representatives for the company, it just got doubled because now you have to talk about the old one and you have to talk about the new one and you have to reference all the different codes and really do your best to make your argumentation. So us as attorneys, our job is to deal with the mess that we’re in and as clearly as possible present the facts in the case to the USCIS officer so that they could see it immediately, understand the complexity, but yet easily approve the case. And how do we do it? It’s on a case-by-case basis, as always.
[3:41] Next is a public service announcement on behalf of the Department of Labor and all AILA attorneys, myself included. Basically, we’re begging you that if you submitted multiple wage determinations and you no longer need the other ones, please withdraw it because it is clogging up the system. Since there’s no fee, people are just filing these left and right just in case they need it. And we don’t know how many people actually need it and don’t actually need it. But compared to the USCIS filing cases numbers, there are way too many wage determinations. And so they’re saying, they know people are doing that, but they still have to process it as they go, and it’s not exactly on a case-by-case basis, first in, first out type of thing. So it’s really, really a big mess, and they are already short on staff.
And so it’s one thing if you are representing a client and you’re filing two or three just to be safe, but it’s another if there’s no case whatsoever, and you’re just filing one after another just in case you do get a case so you can expedite it. So please, if you don’t need it, just withdraw it. That will save everybody a great deal of time.
[4:51] The last big update, well, there’s actually a lot of updates, but I’m not going to cover them in this video. If you’re interested in the intricacies of how the Department of Labor is functioning and how they’re going to convert PERM to the flag system, please download it from the AILA Agora or AILA University. But the last big update from this video is that agricultural workers, they are still essential workers to the United States last year, and increasingly this year as well. There’s going to be up to a predicted 300,000 of these applications. So a lot of things is dependant on these agricultural workers, and we need to get them in to feed America and feed the world.
[5:27] Every year when I attend the Department of Labor open forum, I’m always in awe of how competitive the U.S. market is. This is where you directly get to see how hungry and how thirsty the U.S. companies are for top talent. And not even top talent, for essential talent, the agricultural workers, right? Hundreds of thousands of needed workers need to get their visa to come to the U.S. If the U.S. had enough people to fill these jobs, then this wouldn’t be a problem. But because the U.S. needs so many jobs, there’s so many essential tasks, projects that need to be done, missions that U.S. workers can’t fulfill. And that’s talking about all the universities, right? We’re not like other countries where we just have one good university. We have top universities in every state. We have a university. We have state universities. We have community city colleges, and even with all of that, the graduates pumping out, we still can’t fill the number of roles and jobs available. And companies are waiting years before the foreign worker that’s needed for a particular job can come to the U.S. and finally fulfill their role. That’s how desperate U.S. companies need.
And with the modernization of the perm process, with the modernization of the Department of Labor, this process hopefully will be a little bit more smooth, and in the foreseeable future, hopefully, the U.S. will still remain this competitive that there’s this many job opportunities in the U.S. that demand such good talent and that foreign top talents will continue to pour into the U.S. to help make America great. I’m always blown away, and I hope you share my sentiment.
Thank you, take care, bye-bye.