PERM Program (DOL)

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) Labor Certification Program process is run and managed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). It is the first step in the employment-based immigration process for foreign nationals seeking lawful permanent residency (green cards) through employment in the United States. DOL processes Applications for Permanent Employment Certification, ETA Form 9089, with the exception of Schedule A and sheepherder applications filed under 20 CFR § 656.16. 

A DOL certified permanent labor certification allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the United States. Hence, the employer who intends to sponsor a foreign worker for permanent residency is responsible for filing the PERM application. When an employer applies a PERM application with the DOL, it must certify that there are no sufficient U.S. workers able, willing, qualified, and available to accept the job opportunity in the area of intended employment and that employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Upon receiving the certified Labor Certification Application from the DOL the employer can submit an Immigrant Petition for the alien beneficiary with the USCIS. 

This labor certification process requires employers to demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available and willing to fill the position for which they are seeking to hire a foreign worker. Before filing a PERM application, the employer must conduct a series of recruitment efforts to test the U.S. labor market, which includes placing job advertisements in newspapers, online sources, etc., and conducting recruitment activities to attract potential U.S. workers for the position. The employer must obtain a prevailing wage determination from the DOL for the specific job and location, which is called prevailing wage. The foreign worker must be offered at least the prevailing wage.

The PERM application is filed electronically by the employers or their representatives with the DOL once the recruitment steps are completed, and no qualified U.S. workers are found. The DOL reviews the PERM application to ensure compliance with the recruitment requirements and other program regulations. The main aim of this process is to verify that hiring a foreign worker will not negatively impact the U.S. labor market. If the DOL determines that the employer has met all the requirements and that there are no qualified U.S. workers available, it will issue a certified PERM labor certification.

The date the labor certification application is received by the DOL is known as the filing date and is also called “priority date.” After the labor certification application is certified by DOL, it should be submitted to the appropriate USCIS Service Center with a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. The certification has a validity period of 180-days and expires if not submitted to USCIS within this period. The USCIS and the Department of State (DOS) use the “priority date” to decide if the alien beneficiary is eligible to file and/or obtain his/her change of status to permanent resident (Form I-485) or consular process for permanent residency. This priority date is very crucial in the employment-based second preference (EB-2) and third preference (EB-3) immigrant visa categories, which are commonly used for professionals, skilled workers, and other workers.

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