“Cap season,” the H-1B visa equivalent of “tax season,” is anything but fun for immigration attorneys and in-house immigration specialists across the U.S. We do all we can to streamline the process: divide work based on service center, alphabetize FedEx packages, hire seasonal help and so on.
But we often overlook all the LCAs and public access files that are very much part and parcel of the H-1B process. We go on posting hard copy LCAs and creating physical PAFs, ignoring the need for automation. We don’t often think about cap season from the perspective of the LCA, but what if we did?
H-1B Numbers in FY 2018
Last year, USCIS started accepting FY 2018 H-1B cap petitions on April 3, 2017. The cap was reached on April 7, 2017, just four days later.
In those four days, USCIS received 199,000 H-1B petitions. In total, USCIS received 404,087 H-1B petitions in FY 2017 - a 10-year high, by the way. This meant that cap season accounted for a whopping 49% of the entire year’s H-1B petitions. And cap season only lasts a few months, typically from late January through the end of March.
Because of this volume, immigration tech is hyper-focused on streamlining the H-1B process. INSZoom, LawLogix and others make it a point to sell the ease and efficiency of their software, with great emphasis on client communication, USCIS forms and more. But in a way they overlook one major piece of the H-1B visa puzzle: the LCA.
LCA Numbers Track H-1B Numbers
549,500 LCAs were submitted to the DOL in FY 2017. When I broke down the numbers by month I found that 263,933 (48%) of all those LCAs were submitted in February and March. In other words, almost half the year’s LCAs were submitted during cap season!
This tells us that immigration attorneys and in-house immigration specialists are swamped with DOL paperwork during cap season.
Today, immigration tech mostly leaves LCA posting and PAF management up to the user. Because of that, a large majority of petitioners and law firms still post hard copy LCAs and create hard copy PAFs. Sure, some companies are starting to provide digital PAF services, but it's not their biggest priority. On top of that, they're ignoring LCA posting altogether.
How is this acceptable? How is it that there’s software to automate USCIS paperwork - fillable I-129s, document tracking, H-1B reports, etc. - but when it comes time to post an LCA or manage a PAF, it’s overwhelmingly manual?
It’s Time To Embrace LCA and PAF Automation
If there has ever been a time to embrace LCA and PAF automation, it’s now. DOL first embraced this idea in 2000 when they added 20 CFR § 655.734(a)(1)(ii)(B), allowing electronic LCA notice. Specifically, the regulation states that an employer can provide LCA notice electronically by means it “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.”
More recently, on March 7, 2017, AILA confirmed with the DOL that electronic PAFs also satisfy regulatory requirements.
And since each LCA is tied to a corresponding PAF that can now be stored digitally, that means the whole process can be electronic. There’s no excuse for paperwork.
Finally, there’s the compliance side of things. H-1B compliance is becoming increasingly important and employers with multiple offices as well as consulting companies that place H-1B employees at third party worksites are paying closer attention to their LCAs and PAFs. Automating the process minimizes human error, especially during the craziness of cap season, and allows for easier reporting and file sharing in case of an audit.
That’s why I built LaborLess. After working as an immigration attorney and handling way too many hard copy LCAs and PAFs, I knew it was time for automation. LaborLess securely posts electronic LCAs, creates and stores digital PAFs, and lets you manage everything from a centralized dashboard. It isn’t the only way to post electronic LCAs (I wrote about a few other approaches here), but I think it’s the best.