The U.S. Department of Labor has set a February 20, 2024 deadline for submission of public comments on expanding the list of “Schedule A” occupations exempt from the PERM labor certification process. The DOL notice presents a rare opportunity for organizations to suggest shortage occupations to be added to Schedule A, which has not been updated since the PERM program was introduced in 2005.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) a published a request for information (RFI), seeking public input on the possible expansion of the list of occupations eligible for streamlined green card processing – known as “Schedule A” – to include STEM-related and other occupations for which U.S. workers are considered to be in short supply. Public comments are due by February 20, 2024.
This proposal is intended to effectuate a specific mandate in the recent Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence (AI). That Order, issued on October 30, contained a number of immigration-related provisions, including a directive requiring DOL to solicit public input aimed at identifying AI and other STEM-related and other occupations for which there are an insufficient number of ready, willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers.
Under existing regulations, permanent residence cases involving occupations identified in Schedule A as being in short supply are not required to undergo a labor market test and can skip the PERM application process, significantly reducing the overall timeline for attaining employment-based permanent residence. Schedule A currently covers only certain health care occupations and individuals of exceptional ability, and the possibility of expanding this list to certain identified STEM and other shortage occupations would represent a significant step toward streamlining the employer-sponsored green card process.
Issues on which DOL seeks input
DOL’s RFI seeks information and comments in four main areas:
- Appropriate data sources and methodologies for determining whether labor shortages exist, whether Schedule A should be used to alleviate any labor shortages in STEM occupations, and if so, how DOL could establish a reliable, objective, and transparent methodology for identifying STEM occupations experiencing labor shortages;
- Defining and determining which occupations should be considered as falling under the umbrella of STEM, and whether any STEM occupations should be added to Schedule A, and why;
- Whether to limit consideration of STEM occupations for possible addition to Schedule A to largely professional positions or instead expand consideration to include skilled technical occupations; and
- Whether there are non-STEM occupations experiencing labor shortages that should be added to Schedule A, and the data sources and methodologies for determining that such shortages exist.
The agency intends to use the information received in response to this solicitation to help inform decisions on whether and how best to revise Schedule A to more effectively respond to national labor shortages.
If your organization wishes to comment in response to DOL’s solicitation for public input, please contact your immigration counsel.
After considering the public’s input, DOL may issue a proposed or interim final rule to amend Schedule A, which would provide an additional opportunity for public comment on any proposed changes to Schedule A.
We are closely following developments related to the possible expansion of Schedule A, and implementation of the immigration-related provisions of the Executive Order on AI generally. A follow up post will be issued in the event DOL proposes revisions to Schedule A, and further updates will be provided as they become available.