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January 2008, Volume 14, Number 1

OFLC: Labor Certification

The US Office of Foreign Labor Certification released a report on its activities in August 2007, emphasizing that it is helping to "meet American employers' need for talent" by dealing with employer requests for over a million foreign workers in FY06. The labor certification process aims to be sure that US workers are not available to fill the job for which employers are requesting foreigners, and that the presence of foreign workers will not adversely affect US workers.

There is a ceiling of 140,000 immigrant visas a year for workers and their family members coming to the US for employment/economic reasons; about 80,000 of these visas require the job being filled by the "principal" to undergo labor certification. Beginning March 28, 2005, OFLC implemented the PERM system to speed up certification decisions, largely because a backlog of 363,000 employer requests had accumulated.

The OFLC has two National Processing Centers to deal with employer requests for certification for immigrants to fill particular jobs within 45 to 60 days. In the first 17 months of PERM, DOL certified about 70 percent of the applications and rejected 28 percent.

About 55 percent of the workers for whom PERM certification was requested were from five countries: India, China, South Korea, Philippines and Mexico. The leading occupations for Indians and Chinese were computer occupations, and for those from South Korea, Philippines and Mexico cooks. Over 75 percent of the Mexicans certified to fill US jobs had less than a college degree.

OFLC noted that each of the temporary labor programs "is the product of unique circumstances...and enjoys its own set of constituencies." The five top requesters for H-1B visas in FY06 were: Infosys; Wipro; Cognizant; MPHASIS; and Patni. They were certified by OFLC to bring almost 70,000 H-1B workers to the US but, with the annual cap of 65,000 (plus exceptions), most employers did not get all of the H-1B workers they requested. For example, OFLC certified 117,000 H-1B workers for California employers alone in FY06.

The H-2A program is not capped, and the number of temporary foreign farm workers has been increasing- OFLC certified the need to fill 59,100 farm jobs with H-2A workers in FY06. There are 66,000 H-2B visas available each year (plus exceptions) and OFLC certified 62,200 landscaping jobs to be filled with H-2B workers in FY06, 14,300 (hotel) housekeeping jobs; 9,700 construction worker II jobs; and 6,500 forestry worker jobs. The top employers of H-2B workers were Vail Corp, 2,200, and TruGreen Landcare, 1,900.

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