Proposed regulations of the U.S. Department of Labor for green cards enabling immigrants to work in the United States would limit employers’ input in hiring employees due to increased automation of the application process, said Robert Banta, an Atlanta-based immigration attorney.

“What is troubling with the pending process is that it will make it more difficult for an employer to hire a candidate with specific skills,” Mr. Banta, managing partner of Banta Immigration Law Ltd., said during a breakfast briefing on April 8 in Atlanta.

The briefing was attended by human resources officials from multinational companies such as BellSouth Corp., Cendian Corp., Equifax Inc., Global Crossing Ltd. and Home Depot Inc.

The Program Electronic Review Management process, known as PERM, is to shorten the approval times for green cards to as little as 21 days in comparison to one to four years under the Department of Labor’s current system.

Mr. Banta explained that reform was necessary because of a staggering backlog of some 316,000 applications waiting for review in 2003. “The system is broken…and the backlog is growing faster than the processing of applications,” he added.

The program was submitted in February for approval to the U.S. Office of Budget and Management, which will review the program before the Department of Labor issues the final regulations. “The new labor certification program will happen; we just don’t know when,” he said.

According to Mr. Banta, the first step of the new process enabling immigrants to obtain a green card would be faster, but has several disadvantages including not giving the employer a voice in the hiring process. He also criticized the proposals for making it more difficult to rehire employees who need to extend their cards’ expiration dates.

He advised employers who want to sponsor an employee for a green card or are considering people for labor certification to take steps now before the new process is approved.

Mr. Banta also discussed the growing tension between business and government officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about immigration processing delays.

“Business officials are canceling international travel and are being subjected to extreme inconveniences due to increased processing delay,” he said.

“There is no flexibility in the new system. We advise human resource personnel to play a proactive role in educating workers about what type of problems may arise.”

Mr. Banta may be reached at (404) 249-1200.