Labor Certification and PERM Filing



Foreign person who are offered permanent employment in the U.S. must establish a basis of eligibility for filling an employment based preference petition, either through

  1. Labor certification (employment based second and third preference)
  2. Exemption from labor certification (employment based first, fourth and fifth preference) or
  3. Under a Schedule A category

Labor Certification

Foreign persons who have been offered permanent employment in the U.S., and who do not meet the criteria for exemption from labor certification, must obtain Alien Employment Certification, commonly referred to as labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL must be satisfied that there are no qualified U.S. workers available to fill the permanent job offered to the foreign person, and that the working conditions and wages offered for the position will not have adverse effect on the U.S. labor market. Once the labor certification is approved, it serves as the basis for filing an employment based second or third preference petition with the USCIS.

Standards DOL (Department of Labor) Takes to Exclude Foreign Workers

In issuing such certifications, the DOL applies two basic standards to exclude foreign persons

  1. If U.S. workers are able, willing, qualified and available for the position and/or
  2. If the employment of a foreign person will adversely affect the wages or working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed

“Lawful U.S. workers“ include U.S. citizens, permanent residents, asylees, and refugees.

Requirements to Get Labor Certification

To obtain labor certification, the employer must demonstrate that he or she has followed a precise program of recruitment that tests the local labor market for qualified and available U.S. workers in the geographic area where the job will be filled. The employer has to prove to the DOL that:

  1. The job being offered to the foreign person is available and is otherwise open to persons in the United States
  2. There are no unreasonable or unnecessary conditions placed on the position and
  3. The wage offered is at least the prevailing wage in the community.

Reduction in Recruitment

In certain cases, it may be possible to avoid the labor certification process by proving to the DOL that the employer has, during the period of at least six months, attempted to fill the position through normal and customary efforts and has failed to find qualified workers.

What is the Effect of Reduction in Recruitment during PERM process?

Measures to Protect U.S Workers

DOL has taken some measures to protect U.S. workers: (1) No Tailoring the job; (2) No unreasonable conditions; (3) Prevailing wage requirement; (4) Can't hire a foreign person just because he/she is more qualified; (5) Extra documentation for recent layoff.

DOL Measures to Protect U.S. Workers

What is PERM (Program Electronic Review Management)?

In 2004, DOL issued final regulations that established a new labor certification procedure, termed “Program Electronic Review Management“ (PERM). PERM took effect in March 28, 2005, with intent to facilitate faster determinations. Also, more measures are being designed to protect U.S. workers under PERM.

PERM Process

The PERM processes requires that all recruitment be conducted prior to filing the application and recruitment must be conducted within 6 months of filing.

What are the Initial Steps of PERM Filing?

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After it receives the employer's application for labor certification, the Employment Service verifies that the job was offered at the prevailing wage, then posts the job opening on its recruitment system for thirty days--State Workforce Agency (SWA) serving the area of intended employment. At the same time, the employer must advertise the position in a newspaper or a trade journal.

Description and Period Requirements of PERM Filing Advertisement

DOL Initial Processing and Audit

DOL software is programmed to review the application upon submission, and that software has set rules with regard to the information provided in key fields. The system generates a denial under these set rules if the information provided on the application violates the rules. If the application is deemed acceptable for processing after initial screening, the DOL computer system will then review the application based upon various selection criteria that will allow problematic applications to be pulled from the system for an audit. The DOL has indicated that it has incorporated identifiers into the processing system that will be used to select cases for audit based upon program requirements. In addition, the computer system will also randomly select some applications for audit.

Common Examples of System-programmed Denials

Common examples of rule violations that will generate system-programmed denials or may lead to denials during the final review stage of processing include the following:

  1. the prevailing wage determination obtained from the SWA has expired;
  2. the job order placed with the SWA did not run for thirty days;
  3. the application is submitted less than thirty days from the end of completion of the job order, job posting, or last recruitment step; or
  4. the application listed recruitment in the Form 9089 that took place outside the 180-/30-day recruitment period.

Sponsorship Check

As part of the initial review of the application a sponsorship check will also be conducted under which DOL personnel will contact the employer by email or by phone to make sure they are offering a job to the foreign worker.

Approval of the Application

Provided an application has not been selected for audit and the sponsorship check is completed, the application is sent to an analyst for final review. The analyst conducts a final check to determine that the application contains no errors or inconsistencies and that there are no issues that warrant an audit. If there are no rule violations and no issues warranting issuance of an audit letter, the application will be certified and returned to the employer by the DOL analyst.

Four Results of DOL Initial Processing-Possibility of Audit

  1. non-audited applications (that is, applications that have not been selected for audit and are awaiting final review by a DOL analyst). If, as a result of the recruitment efforts, the employer is unable to locate a U.S. worker who is able, willing, qualified, and available to fill the position, the DOL certificate officer may issue the labor certification. DOL estimates that an application not selected for audit, the employer will be approved within 45-60 days;
  2. audited applications (applications for which an audit letter has been issued);
  3. applications that were denied and are on appeal (including cases for which motions to reconsider and/or motions to review have been filed);
  4. “government error“ motions to reconsider (motions to reconsider filed in connection with cases that were denied as a result of government error). If a case exceeds the normal processing time, the employer/attorney can submit an inquiry to the Atlanta NPC.

Who May be Selected to be Audited in the PERM Labor Certification?

What Should an Employer do When Selected for Audit after filing PERM?

In cases selected for audit, the employer will be required to submit supporting documentation establishing compliance with each of the requirements of the labor certification, including additional “reasonable“ requirements imposed by DOL certifying officer. The DOL has issued more audit notices in recent years. It is anticipated that increased audit activity will continue into the future. There is substantial documentation needs to be provided by the selected employer.

What are the Key Elements of the Employer's Audit File in a PERM filing?

Results after Audit - Approval, Denial or Supervised Recruitment

If the DOL determines that the documentation submitted by the employer in response to the audit letter is complete and consistent with responses on Form 9089, it will certify the application. If the documentation is deemed deficient to the DOL, the certification may be denied. There are three results after audit: application approved, application denied or supervise recruitment.

What Happens if the PERM Application is Denied or Ordered Supervised Recruitment after Audit?

Effect of Labor Certification

Once the case is certified by the Labor Department, the applicant's employer can file an I-140 petition with the USCIS. The labor certification is not an authorization of any kind, and only serves the limited purpose of establishing that there are insufficient available, qualified and willing U.S. workers to fill the position and that the noncitizen's employment will not have an adverse effect on the wages and working conditions of similarly situated U.S. workers. The certification once issued, is valid indefinitely as long as the job remains available.

Can Labor Certification be Amended after Approval?

DOL policy bars amendment of the approved labor certification. Once an application has been electronically submitted or mailed, it is considered final and no changes to the application will be permitted, including typographical errors as well.

Pay Attention to Changes surrounding the Certification that May Affect its Validity

If changes occur in the facts surrounding the certification, it is the role of the USCIS to evaluate those changes to decide whether they affect the validity of the certification. If not, no changes to the certification are needed. If the changes do affect the validity of the certification, USCIS will deny the preference petition.

What Changes Will Require Evaluation by the USCIS of the Continuing Validity of the Labor Certification?

Most of the changes requiring evaluation by the USCIS of the continuing validity of the certification relate to the following issues:

  1. The employment relationship is terminated, affecting the identity of the foreign person named in the certification.
  2. The location of the job opportunity has changed, either because the employer has relocated or the foreign person has been transferred to a different work site of the employer.
  3. The name or ownership of the employer has changed.
  4. The job duties or salary level of the position have changed substantially.

Current Trends of PERM Application

While the conditions of the local job market will determine the possibility of obtaining labor certification, certain trends are apparent.

  1. Visas More Available for Skilled Workers: As a matter of practical reality, immigrant visas are only available for persons whose jobs require a minimum of two years more training and experience in order to perform the job. This is caused by the backlog in the category of other workers for the third employment-based preference. It is so long that most job offers will not survive the long delay.
  2. Geographical Areas and Job Types are Important: The job market will be affected by the number of jobs in the particular area. As an example, it may be very difficult to prove that there is a job shortage for hotel managers in a resort area because these jobs and geographical areas attract many qualified U.S. candidates. Generally, the U.S. economy and the law favor foreign persons who have particular job capabilities and skills that are not readily obtainable in the U.S. labor market.
  3. Jobs at Opposite Ends of Spectrum Have More Chance of Approval: It is generally easier to obtain a labor certification for job skills that occupy the opposite ends of the spectrum. For example, a scientist who is experienced in advanced molecular biochemistry will probably receive a labor certification. Likewise, an attendant for a coin operated laundry at the prevailing wage may not be able to find willing U.S. workers to fill the position because of the low wage and unfavorable job conditions.