The latest data released by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) on permanent labor certifications (PERM) showed that the Philippines dropped out of the list of the top five countries with the most number of certified foreign worker-beneficiaries for the fiscal year (FY) 2007.
In fiscal year (FY) 2006, the Philippines ranked number four among the top countries with certified workers. It is now replaced by South Korea while Canada moved to the fifth. India and China remain the top two recipients of PERM certifications. Mexico, which used to be fifth, climbed to the third rank.
Top industries that sponsored PERM applications are in the computer services, colleges and universities, full-service restaurants, engineering services, elementary and secondary schools, electronics manufacturing, R & D in physical, engineering and life sciences and investment banking and securities dealing.
Top occupations in demand remain in the IT field such as computer software engineers, system software engineers, analysts, IS managers and computer programmers. Restaurant cooks managed to place fourth in the top occupations.
Out of the 98,753 PERM applications processed, 14% was rejected. 29.8% of the occupations required a Bachelorís degree while 47.7% required a Masterís degree or higher.
PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) was first implemented in March 2005 to revamp and streamline the labor certification process, which is the first step in the employment-based application for U.S. permanent residence (greencards). It automated the process through online/ electronic submissions meant to reduce paperwork and to expedite the review process.
The labor certification process seeks to test the U.S. labor market before certifying the position to show that two conditions are met: that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available at the time of an alienís admission to the U.S. and at the place where the alien is to perform the work; and that the employment of the alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
To test the U.S. labor market, the employer is required to conduct recruitment through job advertisement and other prescribed recruitment efforts, more than 30 days and less than 180 days prior to filing the PERM.
The employer must prove that he will pay the prevailing wage for the position in the place of employment and must show that the requirements or job qualifications are normal to the position.
The implementation of the PERM process has led to an increased number of audits for labor certification submissions.
Additional hurdles under the PERM include: the zero tolerance for typographical errors in the online submission; strict adherence to the Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) guidelines for the positions; the restrictions on equivalency to meet education and experience requirements; and exacting recruitment and documentation guidelines.
Although the Philippines fell behind in the list of top PERM recipients, it is expected that the Philippines will remain a top source of skilled professionals and workers, especially in the field of allied health industries.
Most of these Filipino applicants fall under Schedule A occupations, for which PERM certification is not necessary. Schedule A occupations are those that the USDOL pre-determined that there are not sufficient qualified U.S. workers to meet the demand. Professional nurses and physical therapists are occupations that fall under this category.
Once the PERM application is certified, the I-140 immigrant petition can be filed by the employer on behalf of the alien-beneficiary. The filing and approval of the I-140 immigrant petition will give the beneficiaries their respective priority dates for permanent resident (greencard) processing.
Members of the professions holding advanced degrees (such as Ph.D.s) or persons of exceptional ability qualify for employment-based second preference (EB-2) as basis for their greencard.
Skilled workers, professionals and other workers qualify for the employment-based third preference (EB-3) category.
The good news is that the March 2008 Visa Bulletin issued by the State Department shows that the priority date for the Philippine EB-2 category is current while the priority date for EB-3 advanced to January 1, 2005.
Editorís Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at 212 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com