Transforming the Permanent Visa Process

The Labor Department is overseeing the modernization of the Permanent Labor Certification Program (PERM). The updated process will serve both American employers and foreign workers by enabling the labor certification information to be shared quickly and securely by multiple federal agencies throughout the visa processing lifecycle.

As chief information officer, I know firsthand the impact this project will have. I have my 16-page labor certificate framed. The application process took about a year, the first step that determined the timeline for an 11-year journey to receive my green card. The updates to PERM will mean a different experience for employers and workers moving forward.

What is PERM?

PERM is the system American employers use to hire foreign workers to permanent positions in the U.S. An American employer needs to obtain a certified labor certification application before they can submit an immigration petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

  • The Department of Labor processes 150,000 applications each year 
  • 68% of PERM applications request labor certification in jobs related to science, technology, engineering and math

Why modernize PERM?

The previous PERM system required employers to manually copy data from one form to another, leading to delays in processing times and increased costs and security risks. The Office of Chief Information Officer updated the PERM process by integrating it with the newly modernized Foreign Labor Application Gateway system, known as FLAG, which will:

  • Decrease PERM visa certification processing time by approximately 45 days.
  • Provide electronically linked forms and prepopulated form fields during the submission phase.
  • Reduce the need for manual application reviews.
  • Offer a digital transfer of the certification to USCIS and Department of State, creating a more seamless immigrant visa processing experience.

As of June 1, all new PERM applications must be submitted in the updated FLAG system. By the fall of 2024, each step of the permanent labor certificate process – including application reviews, decisions and appeals – will be fully modernized.

To learn more visit the FLAG website and check out the FAQs, user guides and videos.

Gundeep Ahluwalia is the chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Labor. Follow OCIO on Twitter/X and LinkedIn. Are you interested in joining the OCIO team? View available positions and apply today!