By David A. Isaacson

The Justice Department announced Wednesday, that, based in part on the recommendation of Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama has determined that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and will no longer defend it in court. This is because, facing litigation within the jurisdiction of a circuit court of appeals (the Second Circuit) that has never ruled on the appropriate standard of review to be applied to laws concerning sexual orientation, the Administration determined that a heightened standard of review is appropriate, and that Section 3 of DOMA cannot withstand review under such a standard (although the Justice Department had previously argued that Section 3 could survive the looser rational-basis test applicable under the precedent of some courts of appeals). The announcement is available online at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/February/11-ag-222.html, and a related letter sent by Attorney General Holder to Speaker of the House John Boehner is available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/February/11-ag-223.html. The announcement states, however, that Section 3 of DOMA will remain in effect until either it is repealed or “there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down,” and until such time “the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law.” The letter to Speaker Boehner states even more specifically that “the President has instructed Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA, consistent with the Executive’s obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.”

Section 3 of DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, provides that for purposes of federal law, “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Among other consequences under federal law, this means, according to the consistent interpretation of USCIS and the former INS, that a same-sex spouse cannot be granted immigration benefits by virtue of his or her marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. This aspect of DOMA, as interpreted in a 2003 memorandum by William Yates of USCIS, was discussed in a March 2004 web article by Cyrus D. Mehta (http://www.cyrusmehta.com/News.aspx?MainIdx=ocyrus200591724845&Month=&Source=Zoom&Page=1&Year=All&From=Menu&SubIdx=964).

The recent Administration announcement suggests that, following successful litigation, same-sex spouses whose marriages are recognized by their state of residence may find themselves able to seek immigration benefits based on their marriages, although this will for the moment not be possible without litigation given the Administration’s position that Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be enforced until a court declares it unconstitutional. Litigation is not certain to succeed, however, because Congress or individual members of Congress may intervene to defend the constitutionality of DOMA. Indeed, one of the purposes of the statutory provision, 28 U.S.C. § 530D, that required Attorney General Holder’s notification to Speaker Boehner was to enable such defense by a House of Congress or individual members, and the Attorney General said of the pending challenges to Section 3 of DOMA in his letter that Justice Department attorneys “will also notify the courts of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation in those cases.” Moreover, there is some risk that any challenge to Section 3 of DOMA could be less likely to succeed in the immigration context than in other contexts, given the “plenary power” doctrine and the history of judicial deference to Congress in this context – as in Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787 (1977), where the Supreme Court upheld a provision of the INA that discriminated against illegitimate children – although it is also possible that Section 3 of DOMA will be voided in all contexts by a judicial holding that it is, as a general matter, unconstitutional.

Given the uncertainty regarding the timing and nature of final judicial action on this subject, it would be extremely risky for same-sex married couples to affirmatively seek immigration benefits in reliance on this announcement. It could even be quite risky for same-sex couples to marry in reliance on the announcement, if the current status of one of the spouses depends on showing a foreign residence and no intent to abandon it (such as with a B-1/B-2 visitor or F-1 student). This risk and others were discussed in more detail in a July 8, 2010 advisory from Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) following their victory in a district court case challenging Section 3 of DOMA, http://www.immigrationequality.org/template.php?pageid=1115.

Same-sex spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who are already in removal proceedings, however, should consider seeking adjustment of status under INA § 245 based on an I-130 petition filed by their spouse if they are otherwise eligible for that relief, and/or cancellation of removal under INA § 240A(b) based on the hardship to their spouse if they were to be removed if they are otherwise eligible, and preserving the issue for judicial review. Similarly, same-sex couples who are not yet married could consider moving to a state that recognizes same-sex marriages if they do not reside in one already, entering into a state-recognized marriage, and seeking adjustment of status or cancellation of removal for the non-U.S.-citizen spouse based on that marriage—bearing in mind that like any other marriage, a same-sex marriage could only be a basis for immigration benefits if it were established to the satisfaction of the immigration authorities that such a marriage was bona fide, that is, was truly meant to establish a shared life together rather than being done purely for immigration purposes, and that in the case of adjustment of status based on a marriage entered into while one spouse is in removal proceedings, INA sections 204(g) and 245(e) would require a showing by clear and convincing evidence that the marriage was not entered into for immigration purposes. The concerns raised by GLAD in its previous advisory continue to apply, however, and it is therefore this author’s view that the preferable course in cases where removal proceedings have not already been commenced would generally be to await further developments before filing any petition or application based on a same-sex marriage.


By Cyrus D. Mehta

Does anyone remember EAWA, the Employ American Workers Act and its effect on H-1B petitions, http://bit.ly/hDQnHd?

This legislation was passed on February 17, 2007 and was set to sunset in two years. Congress has not extended this provision even though the second anniversary passed on February 16, 2011.

The law created additional attestation requirements on employers filing H-1B visa petitions who received funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”), Pub. L. 110-343, Div. A, Title I, or under section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act (collectively referred to in this document as “covered funding”).

The additional attestations required a demonstration that the employer had not displaced US workers and had taken steps to hire US workers prior to filing the Labor Condition Application underlying the H-1B petition. As a result, many companies who received funding under TARP shied away from filing H-1B petitions. Many F-1 students who had been hired after graduating with MBAs from top universites were terminated when the employer did not file the H-1B petition.

EAWA was a blatant exercise in American protectionism. While these attestations were similar to the attestations that H-1B dependent employers have to also make, entities that received TARP funding or funding under section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act could not even get an exemption from these attestations if they hired an exempt worker – one who receives a salary of $60,000 or more or has a Master’s degree.

Thank goodness that the EAWA has sunset so that the best and brightest from all over the world, especially foreign students who have graduated from American universities, can be employed like other H-1B workers at institutions that need their talent to recover from the Great Recession, and thrive and prosper.

PS. The latest version of Form I-129 H-1B Data Collection Supplement still asks whether the H-1B petitioner has received TARP funding when the legal basis to ask this question no longer exists.

The LCA in the Age of Telecommuting

By Cyrus D. Mehta and Myriam Jaidi

An H-1B employee has a job with a company based in New Jersey. Her job can, however, be performed remotely from virtually anywhere in the United States or the world. So long as she has good internet access, she can sign in to her employer’s server and perform her work as if she were in the office. She usually works at her office, but has decided to work from home in Pennsylvania for two months. When her boyfriend’s mother, who lives in California, becomes ill, she and her boyfriend go out to care for her, staying for six weeks. She then goes on a cruise in US waters, still telecommuting to work. She has no work-related duties in Pennsylvania or California (or out in US waters during the cruise), such as working with clients there, and will be effectively telecommuting to the New Jersey office. What would her employer need to do in order to comply with the Department of Labor’s regulations for H-1B workers, specifically with regard to the Labor Condition Application (LCA) rules?

As a background, the LCA is to an H-1B worker like a leash is to a dog. The LCA ensures that notice is provided to US workers about the fact that an H-1B worker is being sought, the occupational classification, the wages offered, the period of employment, locations at which the H-1B worker will be employed, and that the LCA and accompanying documents are available for public inspection. See 20 CFR § 655.734.

Telecommuting (or “telework” as labeled by the US government) has become more and more prevalent. (See studies here, http://tinyurl.com/6jcc7ww.) Telecommuting employees raise important questions and issues in the immigration context, especially with regard to the Labor Condition Application required for H-1B nonimmigrant workers.

The first issue raised under the facts above is whether a new LCA is required for each location, and if so, whether the posting should be done in the employee’s home and in her boyfriend’s mother’s home.

These situations raise interesting concerns about how (and where) work is “actually” performed (as stated in the regulations) in a global economy increasingly characterized by telecommuting. Can it be argued that because the employee is logging into the employer’s system in New Jersey, the work is actually being performed in New Jersey? Not likely given the structure of the regulatory scheme, but it is something that should be considered in the global economy.

The laws governing the LCA and H-1B processes are out-dated. They do not recognize, and in fact guidance issued by USCIS in 2010, available at http://tiny.cc/z3ZU8, makes clear that some government agencies view with skepticism, the global economy and the increasing frequency of telecommuting.

The LCA and the attestations an employer makes when submitting one were developed as a means to protect wages and working conditions, and to ensure that US workers are made aware of the hiring of H-1B professionals (which makes the concept of posting an LCA in someone’s home or vacation hotel room somewhat absurd). The regulatory scheme is largely location-oriented. Violation of the regulatory framework may result in fines, debarment from participation in the LCA (and thus H-1B) process, and further investigations. Thus, even where a company pays the required wage for any location and has no intent of violating the procedures, a failure to comply with the specific technical requirements, even where compliance seems absurd, may result in penalties.

USCIS has become more location-oriented in its analysis of H-1B petitions. USCIS now examines worksite issues more closely and, with the recently issued Form I-129, has begun to request greater detail on worksites and itineraries for all H-1B petitions. The agency’s interest stems in part from its concern with the existence of a proper employer-employee relationship to support an H-1B petition. (For more information, see From Problem to Springboard: Tips on Using the Neufeld Memorandum in Support of H-1B Petitions, available at http://tinyurl.com/33t7fkz.) Such a relationship is defined in part by where an employee is working and whether the employer has control over the employee’s work at that location. The companies currently subjected to the highest scrutiny are those that place workers at end client sites (i.e., work locations not controlled by the petitioning employer) to perform services/work. But the concerns raised in that category may spread to other circumstances, such as the employee telecommuting from home.

The definitions addressing where an H-1B employee works were developed originally with a focus on the worker’s actual physical location, assuming that the job duties would need to be performed in a particular location. Gathering statistics and issuing prevailing wage determinations require pinpointing a particular city or geographic area. The entire prevailing wage framework is place-based. 20 CFR 655.715 provides the following definitions:

Area of intended employment means the area within normal commuting distance of the place (address) of employment where the H–1B nonimmigrant is or will be employed. …

Place of employment means the worksite or physical location where the work actually is performed by the H–1B, H–1B1, or E–3 nonimmigrant.

These definitions are vague and do seem to leave room to argue that an H-1B worker who can be anywhere but works through the employer’s location via the internet (thus the work arguably “actually is performed” at the employer’s location), is always within “normal commuting distance” so long as the employee has proper internet access. If all that the worker needs is a computer and an internet connection to perform the work, then it would be most logical to post the LCA where the employer’s server is located! To go back to our hypothetical and show how absurd it can be, imagine our H-1B telecommuter embarking on a voyage on a cruise ship for more than 30 days from San Francisco, CA to Anchorage, Alaska. Each time the ship enters a location, which is not within commuting distance from the original location posted on the LCA, a new LCA will need to be posted on the cruise ship. So, her employer, who is a stickler about compliance, posts an LCA with a San Francisco, CA location, which is where the ship starts its voyage. By the time, the cruise ship sails up the waters adjoining Oregon and Washington, new LCAs will need to be obtained and posted on the cruise ship. Once the cruise ship is in Canada, we can assume that the DOL’s LCA regulations do not apply in foreign territories, but with the DOL you can never tell as it passionately attempts to expansively interpret its rules. Once the ship reaches Alaska, more rounds of LCA’s will need to be posted (as Alaska is a huge territory) until its final destination in Anchorage, Alaska.

Nevertheless, using the employer’s address even where the employee telecommutes because the work is being done virtually at the employer’s location has not been tested. This problem does not arise in the PERM labor certification process with roving employees, because an employer can obviate the problem by using headquarters as the base from which to conduct recruitment. See Cora-Ann Pestaina’s article PERM and the Roving Employee, available at http://tinyurl.com/64dhcv5. A DOL auditor who reviews a company’s LCA public access files may not accept this 21st century application of the policies and definitions. Therefore, however absurd it may sound, it might still be advisable to file an LCA for the worker who telecommutes, and have the worker post the LCA in two conspicuous locations in his or her home or the location from which he or she is telecommuting. In the alternative, the LCA notice provision may be satisfied by an electronic posting directed to employees in the relevant occupation classification. Pursuant to 20 CFR 655.734(a)(ii)(B), such electronic posting may be accomplished:

by any means [the employer] ordinarily uses to communicate with its workers about job vacancies or promotion opportunities, including through its “home page” or “electronic bulletin board” to employees who have, as a practical matter, direct access to these resources; or through e-mail or an actively circulated electronic message such as the employer’s newsletter. Where affected employees at the place of employment are not on the “intranet” which provides direct access to the home page or other electronic site but do have computer access readily available, the employer may provide notice to such workers by direct electronic communication such as e-mail ( i.e., a single, personal e-mail message to each such employee) or by arranging to have the notice appear for 10 days on an intranet which includes the affected employees (e.g., contractor arranges to have notice on customer’s intranet accessible to affected employees).

The benefit of electronic posting is that it may protect an employer in situations where the employee is working remotely from various locations (not office sites, but locations such as a relative’s home or vacation spot) for more than 30 days per year, based on the argument that the electronic posting covers all potential locations. There are some general problems with electronic notification – it does not obviate the need to obtain a new LCA when the H-1B telecommutes, nor does it obviate the need to pick an address to indicate on the LCA. Electronic posting only obviates the absurd situation of having an employee post the LCA in his or her home. Furthermore, the rules governing electronic posting are quite vague and thus fraught with risk. The rules do not make clear who has to be notified – all employees everywhere and anywhere who fall within the same “occupational classification” (and the rules do not indicate how narrowly or broadly that should be interpreted) or only those in the “area of intended employment.” Where is that in an economy increasingly characterized by telecommuting?

The DOL’s framework is location-focused, and gives no clear guidance on whether the work a telecommuting employee does is “actually is performed” at the employer’s address as listed on the LCA, and not where the telecommuting employee is located. What is clear is that one who works remotely for less than 30 days (or in some limited circumstances, up to 60 days, see 20 CFR 655.735((c)) in a one year period need not have a new LCA to cover that employee’s new location.

Even if the DOL has not taken a position on the issue, it is hoped that the DOL auditor who wishes to rigidly apply this 20th century rule on work locations in the 21st century may exercise discretion in not imposing a penalty if the employer has complied in every other aspect. The DOL auditor may decide that given the lack of clarity in this area, the employer took a good faith position. However, to ensure against such risks, employers may wish to prepare a new LCA indicating the address from which the individual will be telecommuting, and have the individual post the LCA in two locations at that address. Until the regulations catch up with reality in the 21st century, this would be the appropriate course of action.


In the wake of the closing down of the “sham” Tri-Valley University, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/128946/india/visa-relief-in-sight-for-indian-students-conned-by-tri-valley-varsity.html and http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_17151508?nclick_check=1, which has rendered many F-1 students out of status, ICE has issued guidance to universities that enroll F-1 students via SEVIS regarding how to facilitate the transfer. The document was posted in AILA InfoNet on February 8, 2011 (AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 11020863).
Many of the students who were enrolled at Tri-Valley were unwitting victims, and ought to be able to transfer their F-1 status to other schools, or be able to change to another noniommigrant visa status, such as H-4 or H-1B (if the individual is not subject to the current H-1B FY 2011 cap). The DHS gives discretion to its officers to approve applications for change of status even where the individual has failed to maintain status due to “extraordinary circumstances,” and a student who has been caught in this predicament ought to be invoke favorable discretion under 8 C.F.R. section 248.1(b).
It is good news that DHS has issued guidance that would facilitate the transfer of F-1 status to another legitimate school. Although the guidance is vaguely worded, it seems to suggest that if a new school accepts a student for admission from Tri-Valley, the designated school official must contact the SEVIS help desk before creating a SEVIS record and a determination may be made on a case by case basis. While the guidance could have been more clear, it appears to create a procedure for a student from Tri-Valley to transfer to another school in F-1 status.
To: All SEVIS Users
Date: February 7, 2011
Re: Consideration of Former F-1 Students from Tri-Valley University for Enrollment
Number: 1101-02
On January 18, 2011, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) either cancelled or terminated all initial, active and transfer-in student records associated with Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California.
Students enrolled at TVU and those who entered the United States but have not enrolled at TVU are unable to maintain F-1 status.
If a former TVU student applies for acceptance at a school, consider the following while following normal admissions procedures:
1. School officials must obtain an enrollment application and all subsidiary documents typically requested in order to make an admissions decision, including an assessment of the student’s finances, and they must maintain these documents in the F-1 student’s academic record.
2. If a student gains admission, a designated school official should contact the SEVP Help Desk at 800-892-4829 or SEVIShelpdesk@hp.com to manage the student record. Do not initiate a new SEVIS record for the student.
3. Employment authorization for F-1 students at TVU terminated January 19, 2011.
Update – 9 pm. ICE has posted an announcement on its website, http://www.ice.gov/sevis/tri-valley-110118.htm, asking TVU students to contact a number, 703-603-3400, and be prepared to provide first and last name, SEVIS ID#, address, telephone number and e mail address, dates of attendance at TVU and level and major of study at TVU. The notice goes on to state, “When you call, SEVP will provide you with your options including the options to depart from the United States without an otherwise possibly applicable bar to re-admission in the future.”
Update 2/9/2011. See NAFSA interpretation on the SEVP guidance regarding transfers of F-1 of former TVU students, http://www.nafsa.org/resourcelibrary/default.aspx?id=24805
Update 2/10/2011. Our office has called the SEVP number given by ICE in their release and has been advised that according to the script provided by ICE, former Tri-Valley students have three options.

One, they can file for reinstatement as students on Form I-539. The suggestion seems to be that this should be done electronically, since we were directed to the http://www.uscis.gov/e-filing website. Implicitly required, although this was not stated by the SEVP representative, is that the reinstatement be in connection with attendance at a different school, since Tri-Valley is no longer viable in the view of DHS.

Two, former Tri-Valley students can voluntarily depart without any action on the part of ICE.

Three, former Tri-Valley students can report to ICE to be processed for voluntary departure.


Cora-Ann V. Pestaina

I first wrote on the subject of the employee referral program with incentives in April 2010 shortly after the Department of Labor announced at a stakeholders teleconference that it had established criteria about the employee referral program, http://cyrusmehta.blogspot.com/2010/04/dol-update-on-perm-and-prevailing-wage.html. The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) recently issued two decisions that mostly adopt the DOL’s new requirements regarding employee referral programs, which is the subject of this article. Indeed, BALCA has been very busy recently issuing many decisions, http://bit.ly/elYpsb, in various aspects of labor certification practice, and it is incumbent on all stakeholders to keep up with them to avoid the pitfalls resulting in the denial of the application.

As a background, an employer has to conduct a good faith recruitment of the labor market in order to obtain labor certification for a foreign national employee. Obtaining labor certification is often the first step when an employer wishes to sponsor a foreign national employee for permanent residence. An employee referral program is one of the recommended recruitment steps under 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(4)(ii)(G) that an employer may undertake to establish that it made a bona fide effort to recruit qualified US workers.

Previously, employers had been allowed to utilize their existing employee referral program and to document its use by submitting a description of the program. In response to audits, the DOL had previously accepted photocopies of pages from employees’ handbooks describing the ongoing program. This clearly complied with 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(4)(ii)(G), which states, “The use of an employee referral program with incentives can be documented by providing dated copies of employer notices or memoranda advertising the program and specifying the incentives offered.” At the stakeholders teleconference, the DOL indicated for the first time that it would henceforth require more from employers who utilize the employee referral program in fulfillment of one of the three additional forms of recruitment required for professional positions under the current labor certification process known as PERM. In August 2010, the DOL published PERM FAQ 11 (available at http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/PERM_Faqs_Round_11_08032010.pdf) wherein its new requirements were clearly imposed.

Although 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(1)(ii)(G) does not so require, PERM FAQ 11 set forth that the DOL now requires the employer to document its use of an employee referral program by providing dated copies of its notices or memoranda advertising the program and specifying the incentives offered and document that employees were made aware that they could refer applicants to the specific position sponsored under the PERM labor certification application. For example, employees may be notified via the employer’s internal website. But the DOL specifically, without explanation, excluded the Notice of Filing provided to satisfy 20 C.F.R. §656.10(d) as being sufficient for this purpose. In Clearstream Banking, S.A., 2009-PER-15 (Mar. 30, 2010), BALCA established that an ongoing intranet posting is acceptable to communicate the program provided it could be established that there was an employee referral program with incentives.

Throughout 2010, there continued to be various anecdotal reports of DOL audits focused on the use of the employee referral program. Now, two recent BALCA cases have shed some additional light on the use of employee referral programs.

In Matter of Sanmina-Sci Corporation, 2010-PER-00697, (Jan. 19. 2011), the DOL Certifying Officer (CO) found that the employer failed to provide adequate documentation of its employee referral program with incentives. The employer had provided the DOL with a flyer titled “Employee Referral Program” dated July 10, 2000 announcing the incentives and an Employee Referral Program Form dated “Rev. 10/31/03.” The CO cited 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(1)(ii) in support of the finding that these dates did not fall within the recruitment period of 30 to 180 days prior to the filing of the labor certification. The employer argued, in its request for review and appellate brief to BALCA, that it provided adequate documentation under the standard set forth for an employee referral program in 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(4)(ii)(G). The employer had clearly specified the incentives of the employee referral program, the dates of the program and the fact that the program was in effect as of the date of the recruitment report. The employer argued that the facts of its case were similar to Clearstream Banking, S.A., where BALCA stated, “…a generic employee referral program with incentives, the description of which is available to employees may be sufficient to be a step under section 656.17(e)(1)(ii)(G), even if the particular job for which labor certification is being sought is not individually promoted under the program.” The employer pointed out that although the regulations do not require that the PERM position be specifically promoted under the employee referral program, its advertisement of the job on its career web page was sufficient to make employees aware of the opening.

First, BALCA rejected the CO’s argument that the employee referral program was dated outside the recruitment period of 30 to 180 days prior to filing the PERM application. BALCA pointed out that 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(1)(ii)(G) only requires dates establishing that the program was in existence at the time of the recruitment for the PERM position and it cannot be reasonably interpreted to require that the dates on the program fall within the specified periods for other forms of recruitment, such as Sunday newspaper advertisements or a job order on the DOL’s own job bank website. Then, BALCA held that in order for an employer to adequately demonstrate its compliance with 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(1)(ii)(G), it must document that (1) its employee referral program offers incentives to employees for referral; (2) the program was in effect during the PERM recruitment period; and (3) the employees were on notice of the job opening.

BALCA soon spoke again on the subject of the employee referral program and held, in Matter of AQR Capital, 2010-PER-00323 (Jan. 26, 2011), that the employer had adequately provided evidence in support of each of the three elements set forth in Matter of Sanmina-Sci Corporation. The employer’s PERM application indicated that it utilized its employee referral program as one of the three additional recruitment steps to advertise for the professional PERM position. The PERM application indicated that the employer advertised with the employee referral program from July 10, 2007 to August 10, 2007. Upon audit, the employer documented its use of an employee referral program by submitting an undated notice of its program which described the incentives offered. The employer’s recruitment report also indicated that 45 (out of a total of 49) applicants for the PERM position had learned about the position through the employee referral program. The CO denied on the ground that the employer did not submit dated copies of the program.

BALCA reiterated that the dated copies referred to in 20 C.F.R. §656.17(e)(1)(ii)(G) are solely for the purpose of establishing that the employee referral program existed at the time of recruitment for the PERM position and not to prove that the dates on the program fell within the same specified recruitment period applicable to other forms of recruitment. BALCA held that (1) the employer submitted a copy of its employee referral program that specified incentives offered; (2) although the program was not dated, the employer’s audit response contained sufficient evidence to demonstrate the existence of the program during the recruitment period; and (3) that the employer’s employees were on notice of the particular job opening. In light of the fact that more than 90% of the applicants for the PERM position learned about it through the employee referral program, BALCA determined it would be ludicrous to question the program’s existence and effectiveness.

BALCA is well aware that, with the exception of requiring dated copies of the employee referral program, it has basically adopted the requirements set forth in PERM FAQ 11, despite the DOL’s possible violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), P.L. 79-404, which prohibits the imposition of new requirements without providing an opportunity for notice and comment. In Matter of Sanmina-Sci Corporation, BALCA specifically addressed this in a footnote but stated that the CO could not be assured that the recruitment step had any connection to an employer’s specific efforts to fill the PERM position and therefore it is implicitly required that the employer provide documentation to show that the employee referral program was in effect during the recruitment period and that employees were aware of the opening.

In light of these two recent cases, my previous advice on this issue still stands. Employers may want to consider adding an “available positions” section at the end of the employee referral program description, including a copy of the specific PERM ad(s) and posting the program in a conspicuous location on the business premises for a specific number of days (and publishing via employer’s intranet, if any) as they do with the Notice of Filing required under 20 C.F.R. §656.10(d). Interestingly, BALCA, in Matter of Sanmina-Sci Corporation, also expressed some bafflement over the fact that the employer’s Notice of Filing cannot be used to prove that employees were made aware of the specific PERM position. However, in that case, since the employer also had an internal web posting, BALCA declined to address the question of whether the Notice of Filing, standing alone, could serve as proof that employees were made aware of the position for which the PERM application was filed.

Posting the employee referral program with an “available positions” section will establish both that the program was in effect during the PERM recruitment period and that the employees were on notice of the job opening. It would also be a good idea to execute a brief memorandum confirming the existence of the employee referral program, describing how the company’s employees were made aware that they could refer applicants to the specific PERM position and listing how many applications, if any, were received. In this manner, employers can be certain that they have done enough to survive an audit. Well, at least until the next rule change.