Expanding Schedule A Shortage Occupations: Public Consultation Extended
The US Department of Labor (DOL) is seeking public input on potential changes to Schedule A, the list of occupations eligible for streamlined green card processing through the PERM labor certification exemption.
Initially set to close to submissions on February 20, 2024, the agency has confirmed that the consultation is being extended and will now remain open until May 13, 2024.
What does the consultation cover?
The request for information (RFI) published by the DOL refers to a possible expansion of Schedule A to include STEM-related and other occupations facing shortages of skills and labor in the domestic market. This is in direct response to Biden’s Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence (AI), issued on October 30, 2023, which required the agency to seek public input to identify AI, other STEM-related and other occupations that are in shortage in the US.
The existing regulations exempt occupations listed in Schedule A from the labor market test requirement and the PERM application process. This is beneficial in reducing the time to attain employment-based US permanent residence.
Schedule A at present includes specific roles in health care, as well as individuals of exceptional ability.
However, Schedule A has not been updated since the PERM program was launched in 2005. As such, employers are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to put forward their input to help ensure the contents of Schedule A are reflective of the economy’s needs.
The consultation aims to:
- Boost Green Card Access: The goal is to expand Schedule A to include more occupations experiencing labor shortages, particularly in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and other critical sectors. This streamlining could reduce processing times and paperwork burden for both employers and foreign workers.
- Align with Market Needs: The DOL wants to ensure Schedule A reflects current and projected workforce needs. Public feedback will help identify in-demand occupations where streamlined green card processing would be most beneficial for the US economy.
- Streamline Procedures: The consultation welcomes suggestions on simplifying the Schedule A review process, making it more efficient and accessible for employers and workers. This could involve clarifying eligibility criteria, reducing documentation requirements, or even exploring alternative pathways to PERM exemption.
The DOL emphasizes the importance of public feedback in shaping the final Schedule A amendments. Businesses, workers, researchers, and other stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments highlighting specific occupations they believe should be added or modifications needed to existing criteria.
Expanding Schedule A could significantly benefit businesses struggling to fill critical positions with qualified American workers. While the consultation deadline is currently set for February 20, 2024, it’s unclear as yet when any final changes will be implemented.
Following closure of the consultation, we will update as information becomes available as to the next steps and possible future changes to Schedule A and the employment-based US permanent residence process.
More generally, we continue to monitor developments in US immigration policy in relation to the Executive Order on AI.
If you have any questions, or to discuss how future policy changes could impact your organization’s US talent mobility and recruitment, contact our immigration specialists for strategic guidance.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.