01 May 2021

United States

DOL Expects PERM Backlog and Long Processing Times to Remain Throughout 2021

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers the PERM program, which is the first step of a three-part process for certain foreign nationals to obtain an employment-based green card. Before a U.S. employer can petition to sponsor an immigrant worker in certain categories of employment, it must obtain an approved PERM Labor Certification from the DOL by demonstrating that—among other conditions—there are not sufficient U.S. workers to fill the position. The process also includes obtaining a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) from DOL that sets the required minimum wage for the occupation and geographic area of intended employment.  

Due to increased workload and limited resources, the DOL currently requires an average of 7.5 months to process most PERM applications and 12 months to process PERM applications randomly selected for audit. The average processing time for PWDs that support PERM applications is 5 months. 

When the electronic PERM process was launched in 2004, DOL announced that PERM applications not selected for audit would receive a decision within 45 to 60 days. Historically, PWDs were also issued within 60 days. Processing times steadily increased throughout 2020 as a number of factors—including the COVID-19 pandemic—limited DOL’s capacity and the backlog of cases grew. 

On April 15, 2021, representatives from DOL met with members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association to discuss matters of concern in the immigration community. DOL indicated that other case types with regulatorily-mandated time requirements must be prioritized over PERM and PWD processing. DOL hopes to increase its staffing by the end of 2021 in order to address backlogs. Until then, processing times are not expected to decrease.  

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