The Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) is the new way for employers to register LCAs for potential employees. It replaces the iCert system and includes lots of enhanced features to (hopefully) make the new process more straight forward for everyone involved. So what does the process look like and how does it compare?

I sat down with Doug and Matt, the good people at Lightman Law Firm to discuss what the changes look like and what you can expect.

From FLAG Announcements:

On October 1st, 2019, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC), in collaboration with the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, released the following enhancements and new features in the Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) System for preparing and submitting applications in the H-2A and LCA (H-1B, H-1B1, E-3) programs.

First things first, what is FLAG? Well, from the FLAG website:

Foreign Labor Application Gateway

This newly-modernized portal will help U.S. employers find qualified workers while ensuring protections for U.S. and foreign workers.

Why does FLAG exist?

Why does FLAG exist?

The best way to start is again directly from the FLAG website:

Why FLAG?

The Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) is a cloud-based portal designed to replace OFLC’s current iCERT System and will serve as the new application filing and case management solution for all foreign labor certification programs. Enhancements will include:

  • Personalized user accounts
  • Enhanced form preparation
  • Austomated case alerts
  • Improved access to OFLC decisions

Matt from Lightman

This upgrade is consistent with an overall effort by the DHS/USCIS to upgrade and modernize how they handle all immigration applications (slowly) moving closer and closer to a paperless filing system.

In short, it’s an upgrade that was expected and was desperately needed from a visual standpoint as well as a security one.

It also happens to improve the process of setting up foreign workers to ensure that all parties are protected sufficiently.

What does it mean for employees (visa applicants)?

Nothing too much changes except reports are that with the new setup still in its infancy, LCAs are taking slightly longer than the normal 5 business days to be returned.

You should leave a little more time in your planning (around 6-7 business days) just to make sure that everything comes back with enough time.

In addition to that:

It used to be that you would generate an LCA number (necessary to book an appointment abroad) when you started an LCA draft. Now you need to actually file the LCA before you are issued an LCA number.

Setting up your DS-160 will therefore have to wait just an extra step!

You should continue to communicate with your employer (and their lawyers, if appropriate) as quickly as possible to ensure that the process goes through quickly.

What does it mean for employers (and lawyers)?

Most importantly: It’s a completely new system! It’s going to require some re-learning and new accounts to make sure you’re up-to-date with the new process.

Like anything else, there are a few kinks to the updated system, but the more I use it the better it actually is from a UI standpoint.

On the upside: The new online system means that employers can build an account for themselves and it will customize elements, pre-fill elements, and allow for automatic notifications when required.

On the downside: It will take a little getting used to and there may be some problems along the way.

Happy applying! Need any help? Well, be sure to talk to Lightman Law Firm!