The first step in nearly all employment-based, permanent residency cases is a labor certification (LC). The purpose of the LC process is to protect the U.S. labor market. The employer requesting the certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) must establish that there is no available, able, qualified, and willing U.S. worker for a particular position.
The LC applications currently are submitted through the Program Electronic Management Review System, referred to as PERM. The PERM labor process has been in place since March 28, 2005. The PERM system was designed with the intent of streamlining and expediting the LC process. Processing times can vary considerably. Processing information generally is available on the DOL WebSite.
Employers pursuing PERM labor for prospective employees must test the local labor market via multiple competitive recruitment efforts prior to filing each case. There are strict requirements regarding the type, placement, and content of such recruitment. The DOL may also choose to require additional recruitment efforts after a case is filed, to be conducted under DOL supervision. There are restrictions with respect to minimum wage levels that can be offered, as a protection of the U.S. labor market. Employers must obtain a prevailing wage determination from the DOL to establish the minimum acceptable wage for a particular position, as part of the pre-filing process.
PERM labor is attestation-based. This means that employers do not supply proof of their recruitment efforts and results with the initial PERM application. They instead must attest to compliance with the requirements at the time of filing. The DOL may choose, however, to review the supporting documentation through an audit process at any time in the five years after filing the PERM case. The employer, therefore, must create and maintain an audit file with the evidence of recruitment and other supporting documentation, to be provided to the DOL upon request.
The PERM labor approval is only the first of three steps in the permanent residence (commonly referred to as the green card) process. The remaining steps are filed with the USCIS.