In late July 2011, the US Department of Labor’s National Prevailing Wage Center temporarily suspended processing of Prevailing Wage Requests (PWRs) in connection with labor certification applications. The suspension also affects redeterminations and Center Director Reviews. DOL has not announced how long the suspension will last or how long it will take to clear the PWR backlog once the suspension is lifted.

In messages sent to attorneys who inquired on the status of long-pending PWRs, DOL indicated it has taken this action because it was utilizing “all Center resources” to comply with a June 15, 2011, federal court order to promulgate new regulations on prevailing wages for H-2B (seasonal) workers.

On August 1, DOL published a final rule amending H-2B wage methodology in connection with the court order.  In the rule, the agency stated that fully complying with the court order will require DOL to manually issue approximately 4,000 H-2B prevailing wages, many for multiple locations, each requiring a separate determination. DOL further stated it anticipates completing this task by October 1, 2011, the beginning of the federal government’s 2012 fiscal year.

A prevailing wage determination is required before an employer may file a labor certification application (the first step in an employment-based green card process). Under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (known as “AC21”), H-1B workers may receive continued extensions if their employers file the labor certification application before the workers reach the last year of their maximum stay in that status. Thus, an extended delay in DOL’s issuing a prevailing wage determination could make it impossible for an H-1B worker to qualify for these “AC21 extensions.”