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PERM – Department of Labor will start charging fees

I have been filing PERM Labor Certification cases from the early days the system was introduced a couple of years ago. As you may know, the PERM filing is free.

As part of the roll-out of its proposed fiscal 2008 budget, the Department of Labor announced that it will be seeking authority from Congress to charge fees to cover the program costs of PERM.

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How Can It Do This?
The imposition of user fees was authorized by Title V of the Independent Offices Appropriations Act of 1952 (31 U.S.C. 9701). Executive-branch guidance for charging user fees for “activities that convey special benefits to recipients beyond those accruing to the general public” can be found in OMB Circular A-25, issued July 8, 1993.

Why Now?
For many years, DOL has been talking about charging a fee for the labor certification process. It appears that many new fees are being proposed this year in conjunction with the Administration’s fy 2008 budget proposal, and DOL is joining the bandwagon. Unfortunately, the fee proposal comes hard on the heels of a proposal by USCIS to radically increase its fees, leaving an overall effect of a proposed dramatic hike in government fees for going through the immigration process. It does not appear that the two agencies coordinated their efforts-each seems surprised at the other’s actions. But that does not change the impact of putting the permanent residence and citizenship process out of the reach of more people-particularly those in low-wage occupations and their small business employers.

What Now?
AILA already is working with coalition partners and allies to oppose the proposed severe increase in USCIS fees. AILA met with USCIS and are preparing a comment on the fee increase rulemaking. Numerous AILA members and staff have been speaking to members of Congress and the media about the issues raised by the USCIS fee increase. On February 14, 2007, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration held a hearing on the increase, and others in Congress have expressed interest in the issue.

AILA also is concerned about the proposed DOL fee structure, and is working on the issues that it raises. We have learned from our experience with INS/USCIS the importance of holding agencies accountable for how they structure and use fees. The appropriateness and fairness of the fees, the quality of service for which they pay, the method for determining the fees, and the process for protecting them from accretion into other agency activities are all elements open to question and examination. And, the first question is, should DOL charge a user fee at all? T