On Prevailing Wage Determinations and DOL Delays | Q & A with BAL’s Stephen Parker
BAL Senior Associate Stephen Parker is speaking this week at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Texas Chapter Spring Conference on the topics of PERM prevailing wage and pay transparency. We recently sat down with Stephen, who practices at the firm’s Dallas headquarters, for a conversation about trending issues in immigration and his approach to the profession.
How long does the Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) process take in 2023?
I’m now seeing PWDs back that were requested in September 2022 — so that’s about 6-7 months! It’s actually improved a bit recently, but when PWDs get to be more than just six months, the overall process becomes difficult to manage.
Why is the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) taking so long to issue PWDs this year?
It’s due in part to the increased demand for PWDs and volume of requests. One possible reason for significant delays last year is that the DOL Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes were put into use in July 2022, an update that was previously delayed due to COVID-19. It might have been taking DOL analysts more time to process PWDs using the new coding system.
Can employers expedite their PWD applications?
There is no way to speed up a PWD. The DOL accepts PWDs and issues them in the order received — first in, first out, without a possibility for expedited requests.
Do you predict that DOL’s PWD processing time will improve in FY2023, and how are your clients being affected?
There’s not really a good way to predict upcoming processing times. DOL suffers from a lack of staff and budget issues. They’re at the mercy of bureaucratic funding, so if there’s a government shutdown due to a budget fight, things are going to get much worse.
There are real issues with significantly delayed processing times, like clients’ employees having to leave the U.S. because their green card case is not far enough along or their children aging out of the process.
What is your approach to helping employers overcome immigration obstacles such as these?
I’m passionate about getting clients through a very complicated process. That’s what drives me. I’m especially inspired by the stories of the employees of our clients — where they’re from, and their boldness, tenacity, courage and willingness to go through this process because they really want to live in America.
What would it be like for you on a given day without the technology we have here to manage cases?
Before coming to BAL I was stressed, dealing with less robust off-the-shelf software solutions that didn’t manage cases. Here at BAL, because of our Cobalt® technology, we’re able to manage a high volume of cases effectively through detailed case management and reporting technology.
Why did you choose immigration law as a profession, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I attended a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles, and I got to be friends with a lot of foreign students from all over the world. I loved their stories and getting to know them. After serving in AmeriCorps, I developed an interest in community and law and policy. I decided to become a paralegal first, and it was just by coincidence that the first job I applied to was an immigration firm.
I enjoy the win-win of helping somebody come to the U.S., helping an employer fill a job vacancy — and helping America to grow and become more diverse, interesting and talented.
Stephen Parker is a Senior Associate in the Dallas office of BAL, where he represents multinational corporations in immigration matters, including PERM labor certification, EB immigrant petitions and Adjustment of Status (AOS). He has a background in corporate immigration for the software industry and is an in-demand speaker at AILA conferences, CLEs and university events. Dedicated to pursuing the exceptional in immigration, Stephen assists his clients with retaining top global talent and also provides free legal assistance at citizenship workshops and through BAL’s pro bono committee.