PERM and Inadvertent Errors

images.jpegThe current labor certification process known as PERM has been around for several years now.  While it was originally touted as being a streamlined, easier way to do the labor certification process that would get rid of backlogs, etc.  it has not turned out that way at all.  Instead, it has become what I would call a mess.  The Department of Labor is no longer interested in just protecting workers, which is what the labor certification process was created to do.  The idea behind the system was to ensure that employers followed a process that was intended to appraise US Workers of the actual job and job requirements and that those US Workers were not scared off from applying, and were given a fair chance at the job opening.  In addition, the process makes sure that those US Citizens are only denied the job for valid, job related reasons.  The Department of Labor, however, has decided that any mistake in paperwork, no matter how minor, should be grounds for a denial whether or not it actually affects whether US workers were adequately appraised of the opportunity and whether or not it means that the employer did or did not follow the correct procedures.  A couple recent cases illustrate this.

The first case (Matter of Karam Kaur Khasriya LLC, 7/14/16) shows that BALCA (the appeals board for denied labor certification cases) does have a sense of irony.  In this case an employer submitted a recruitment report that stated that “no qualified persons applied” and that “there were no resumes to submit” to the DOL.  The DOL officer determined that the statement “no qualified persons applied” could mean that unqualified people applied, and therefore, the employer should have provided those resumes and a complete recruitment report in response to the Audit, which it did not.  Therefore the officer denied the Labor Certification.  In its motion to reconsider, the employer did submit a revised report clearing up the language by saying that “no person applied”.  The DOL Officer stated that the revised report did not overcome the deficiency and upheld the denial

BALCA, in looking at this case, determined that the officer was correct in denying the labor certification initially because its interpretation of the language was reasonable.  In looking at the revised report, BALCA noted that documents submitted in a Motion to Reconsider are not automatically part of the record unless the officer agrees to consider the document.  In this case, BALCA stated, the officer stated that the revised report did not overcome the grounds for denial, therefore, according to BALCA the officer considered the report.  Furthermore, BALCA stated that the officer did not explicitly state that the report would not be accepted, therefore a reasonable interpretation of the language used by the officer was that the report was accepted.  BALCA then went on to find that the revised report clearly showed that no one applied and overcame the grounds for denial, so the case was certified and approved.  BALCA showed that “reasonable” interpretations are a two way streak.

In two other cases, BALCA overturned denials where the advertisements where not exactly what was listed in the Labor Certification application.  In one case the ads listed a wage range, whereas the labor certification application listed one wage.  In the second case, the ad listed 24 months of experience without stating what job titles or areas would suffice for the experience and the labor certification application listed 24 months experience in a particular job area AND, in the alternative, 24 months experience in other job areas.  In both cases BALCA stated that the ads reasonably appraised applicants of the job being offered and did not create an impediment to anyone applying.   Considering that the differences between the ads and the application were  inconsequential at best, it is hard to understand why the case was denied by the Department of Labor to begin with.

The above demonstrates two important principles.  First, the Department of Labor will sometimes deny cases on very spurious and minimal grounds.  It pays to check and double check all paperwork and try to make it all as consistent as possible and to follow the rules.  However, because of the DOL’s tendency to pick on very small issues, there is no way to protect against all possibilities.  This leads to the second principal: Appealing such a denied case can be a good idea in many cases.  While it use to be that BALCA would basically act as a rubber stamp for the DOL (except in some egregious cases), recently (in the past year or two) BALCA  has become much more independent and is now truly carrying out its function of overseeing this process.  BALCA is now infinitely more reasonable in its interpretations and willingness, when it can, to overlook small mistakes as long as the overall process was sound.  Considering the point of the process is to protect US Workers NOT to penalize employers who make inconsequential mistakes, this approach is welcome.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Does Hiring an Attorney Increase Your Chances of Success with USCIS?

I have had many potential clients ask me this question, and I wish I could give a simimages-1.pngple “yes” or “no” answer. There are two things I can say for sure. First, just the fact that you have an attorney, while it does not make it more likely, in and of itself that the case would be approved, it does make sure that the officer is aware that they cannot (or should not) play games with your case (try intimidation tactics, raise issues not supportable by the statute or regulations, etc.). Second, hiring an attorney can, in most cases, help you get your case together and filed quicker than you would on your own, help to ensure that USCIS will get all information that they need up front to make their decision, and help to ensure that the application is presented in a way that USCIS prefers. All of these things can make it more likely that your case is approved, and approved quicker.

Complex cases (All employment based and self-sponsored green cards, H-1Bs, L-1s, E-1s, E-2s, E-3s, Os) can benefit quite a bit by having an attorney. Most attorney’s you hire for these types of cases will have filed many of these cases, so they are more familiar with what USCIS is looking for, especially in terms of what documents help and what documents hurt your chances of success. Similarly, they are more aware of how USCIS likes the case to be organized, and how it can be organized to prevent (as much as possible) the USCIS mailroom from loosing documents. A good attorney will also be able to help in terms of ensuring that the best evidence is put forth first, as opposed to evidence that, while it may seem important, does not impress USCIS and could, because it is put up front, obscure the better evidence in the packet.

Some other types of cases, such as family based cases, may not benefit quite as much from an attorney as generally, these types of case are more straight forward. However, there are still a couple of considerations to think of. First, many questions on the forms are not clear and easy to make mistakes on. Sometimes this is fine, but in other cases, it could lead to major issues as USCIS could decide that you are trying to commit fraud or make misrepresentations on major issues (or, at least, what they consider a major issue) to get a green card. Second, when more complex issues arise (crimes, time in the US out of status, illegal work, illnesses, etc.) it may be best to get an attorney to help sort out what they law is, and how these actions can affect your eligibility. Lastly, generally an attorney can help get the application together and filed quicker and can usually assure that all required documents are submitted with the application, preventing potential RFEs down the road (although these cannot always be avoided). In addition, an attorney could certainly help if any other issues arise during the case.

Overall, I would say you are certainly well served to meet with an attorney about your case to determine how they can help you with your case, especially if your goal is to get it filed as quickly, and easily as possible.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.