DOL Considers Schedule A Update to Include STEM Occupations

DOL Considers Schedule A Update to Include STEM Occupations
December 08, 2023

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) submitted a proposal to solicit feedback on a proposal to streamline green card processing. This proposal is for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions and has gone to the Office of Management and Budget. Interested parties expect the proposed actions to expand the list of occupations eligible for streamlined processing, known as “Schedule A,” to include STEM occupations.

This proposal is a follow-up to an executive order from the White House. This order sought to manage the development of artificial intelligence technology. According to the DOL, the president ordered the Department to expand Schedule A’s occupations list. This expansion would increase the number of skilled STEM workers.

What are Schedule A Occupations?

Foreign national workers seeking lawful permanent residence require sponsorship from employment for most occupations. However, U.S. employers must perform a labor market test and gain Permanent Labor Certifications (PERMs) to sponsor these workers. This process is often extremely costly and lengthy, typically taking over one and a half years to complete. 

Furthermore, the DOL predetermined a shortage of able and willing U.S. workers to fill specific occupations. As outlined in 20 CFR § 656.5 – Schedule A, these occupations may bypass PERM during the recruitment process for these positions. This outline means employers with eligible individuals could petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a sponsored green card.

Several decades have passed since Section A’s last update. However, changing the occupations included on this list requires no changes from Congress. Instead, the DOL may proceed through the federal rule-making process to amend Schedule A.

What’s Next

According to the executive order, the DOL must publish a public request for input on the proposed expansion. The Department must do so by December 14. This request allows employers and other stakeholders to comment on the proposed changes. Such changes could include identifying difficult-to-fill occupations that the DOL may incorporate in a final rule.

Assuming no changes delay the process, the DOL will publish a revised version of Schedule A early in 2024. This publication offers potential benefits for many employers. However, it will not remove many documentary challenges employers face, including the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process.

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