Foreign nationals seeking permanent residence (also known as a Green Card) through employment must first obtain a labor certification through PERM processing. In this guide, you’ll find the answers to frequently asked questions about PERM.
PERM processing, explained
If you are a foreign national seeking an employment-based Green Card, you must first obtain a labor certificate. PERM is an acronym that stands for “Program Electronic Review Management.”
Employers are required to offer American citizens first access to employment opportunities. If there aren’t enough qualified American citizens to fill a job, employers can recruit foreign nationals to fill the position.
To assess the labor market in America, the Department of Labor (DOL) conducts several tests to ensure that Americans are being offered first access to job openings. By assessing the job market, DOL can determine whether or not a position should be offered to a foreign national.
Employers interested in hiring foreign workers must prove they were unable to successfully recruit qualified U.S. workers for a position. Employers must also be prepared to hire foreign workers on a permanent, full-time basis and pay foreign workers the normal wage for the jobs that they need to fill.
Employers are only allowed to begin a petition for an employment-based Green Card when a foreign national’s Labor Certification is cleared by the DOL.
PERM processing times: An overview
Step 1: Preparation by the employer
The U.S employer must develop a job description containing a clear and accurate summary of the job duties, the minimum requirements that an employee must possess to fulfill the duties of the job as well as an overview of the recruitment process.
Generally, it takes most employers one to two months to complete this step.
Step 2: Employer acquires prevailing wage determination from DOL
Next, the U.S. employer will request for a prevailing wage determination (PWD) from the Department of Labor. This step allows the employer to determine what wage they should be prepared to offer a foreign worker.
Currently, it takes approximately four months for an employer to receive a PWD from the DOL. However, if the employer does not agree with the PWD that the DOL has provided, they can request a reassessment or adjust the description of the job and file a new PWD request.
Generally, employers are advised to wait until they receive a PWD before they begin the recruitment process; however, this is not required. If, for example, the labor certificate (LC) has to be filed immediately, the employer can proceed with recruitment before the DOL finishes the wage determination.
In such a case, however, the employer may not file an LC until they receive the PWD. LCs must be filed before the PWDs expiration date.
Step 3: Employer recruitment
An employer has 60 to 180 days to file an LC for a foreign national employee. Additionally, before filing for an LC, an employer is required to have a “cooling off” period. During this time, the employer is not allowed to post any new notices for employment and cannot attempt any other form of recruitment outside of the three of the following steps:
- Job fairs
- Employer website
- Employment search website
- On-campus recruiting
- Recruiting through trade and professional organizations
- Private employment firms
- Employee referral program with incentives
- Campus placement offices
- Media advertisements
- Newspaper advertisements
Generally, employers are urged to place all of their recruitment advertisements at or around the same time to increase the chances that they can fulfill all recruitment requirements within the 180-day recruitment period.
If an advertisement is older than 180 days, an employer will not be able to use it for PERM and must place an alternative advertisement prior to filing PERM. If this should happen, the Green Card process could be severely delayed.
Step 4: Filing of ETA Form 9089
Once recruitment advertisements have been placed, the employer can then file a PERM application with the DOL by using ETA Form 9089 as long as no qualified American workers have applied for the position that the employer is seeking to fill.
An employer must file ETA 9089 electronically via the DOL website. ETA Form 9089 provides the DOL with details pertaining to:
- the position, such as the location, duties, requirements and prevailing wage of the job
- the recruitment process the employer used, like where and when advertisements were placed
- details about the prospective foreign employer
After ETA Form 9089 has been filed, DOL can take several months to adjudicate PERM. Adjudicating will include one of the following:
- PERM approval
- PERM denial
- PERM audit
If PERM is audited, the DOL will request additional information about the applicant. Once the employer provides the additional information, DOL will then review the additional evidence and approve or deny PERM.
Once PERM has been approved, an employer can them proceed with the next phase of the employment-based Green Card process: completing and filing Form I-140 on the behalf of the foreign national worker.
Checking PERM status
To check PERM status, foreign nationals can:
- Visit the Department of Labor website to check PERM processing times
- Check the filing date at the Permanent Case Management System, if PERM was filed online
- Contact the National Processing Center (NPC) by calling 404-893-0101
How to handle a PERM processing delay
Under normal circumstances, PERM processing can be a lengthy process. If you discover unusual delays to your PERM processing, consider consulting an an immigration attorney with the knowledge and experience required to work with the DOL to help speed up the employment-based Green Card process.
For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for noncitizens.
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