Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The DOL Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The US Department of Labor (DOL) is about to roll out a new Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) system that centralizes the process. Unfortunately, the DOL is unable to process electronic forms or even faxes. The new process calls for employers to mail in the PWD to the central office. The
new regulation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2010, is available on-line.

The PWD is a mandatory part of the immigrant visa process (permanent residency or green card). While employers must still pay a prevailing wage in the nonimmigrant process (e.g. H-1B), it is not a mandatory part of the nonimmigrant process; employers are afforded safe harbor benefits by using the PWD process in nonimmigrant matters.

The present PWD process is straightforward. Employers (or their attorneys) file a PWD with the State Workforce Agency (SWA) that controls the worksite. This has not been ideal. Different states have different processing times, different forms, and different processes. For many years the DOL has contemplated a centralized program.

PWDs will be submitted directly to the new National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center (NPWHC) in Washington D.C. starting January 1, 2010. This should improve the process by adding consistency and uniformity.

The new PWD is the Form ETA-9141, the Application for Prevailing Wage Determination. The PWD must be sent by mail or delivery service to: U.S. Department of Labor-ETA, National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center, Attn: PWD Request; 1341 G Street, NW., Suite 201, Washington, DC 20005- 3142.

The DOL indicated that it is developing an on-line PWD, but it did not commit to a date when the on-line PWD will be available. It is expected that until the on-line Form is ready, the PWD process will slow, perhaps quite considerably if past history is any guide. This is especially disheartening for green card cases, whose processing times have dramatically risen in recent years.

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