Nalini S. Mahadevan, JD MBA

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Green Cards

A permanent labor certification issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the United States. In most instances, before the U.S. employer can submit an immigration petition to the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer must obtain an approved labor certification request from the DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The DOL must certify to the USCIS that there are no qualified U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job at the prevailing wage for that occupation in the area of intended employment and that employment of the alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

  • The employer must hire the foreign worker as a full-time employee.
  • There must be a bona fide job opening available to U.S. workers.
  • Job requirements must adhere to what is customarily required for the occupation in the U.S. and may not be tailored to the foreign worker's qualifications. In addition, the employer shall document that the job opportunity has been and is being described without unduly restrictive job requirements, unless adequately documented as arising from business necessity.
  • The employer must pay at least the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment.
Application

The employer must complete an Application for Permanent Employment Certification (ETA Form 9089). The application will describe in detail the job duties, educational requirements, training, experience, and other special capabilities the employee must possess to do the work, and a statement of the prospective immigrant's qualifications.

Signature requirement

Applications submitted by mail must contain the original signature of the employer, alien, and preparer, if applicable, when they are received by the National Processing Center (NPC). Applications filed electronically must, upon receipt of the labor certification issued by ETA, be signed immediately by the employer, alien, and preparer, if applicable, in order to be valid.

Prevailing wage

Prior to filing ETA Form 9089, the employer must request a prevailing wage determination from the State Workforce Agency (SWA) having jurisdiction over the proposed area of intended employment.

Pre-Filing Recruitment Steps

All employers filing the ETA Form 9089 (except for those applications involving college or university teachers selected pursuant to a competitive recruitment and selection process, Schedule A occupations, and sheepherders) must attest, in addition to a number of other conditions of employment, to having conducted recruitment prior to filing the application.

The employer must recruit under the standards for professional occupations set forth in 20 CFR 656.17(e)(1) if the occupation involved is on the list of occupations, published in Appendix A to the preamble of the final PERM regulation. For all other occupations not normally requiring a bachelor's or higher degree, employers can simply recruit under the requirements for nonprofessional occupations at 20 CFR 656.17(e)(2). Although the occupation involved in a labor certification application may be a nonprofessional occupation, the regulations do not prohibit employers from conducting more recruitment than is specified for such occupations.

The employer must prepare a recruitment report in which it categorizes the lawful job-related reasons for rejection of U.S. applicants and provides the number of U.S. applicants rejected in each category. The recruitment report does not have to identify the individual U.S. workers who applied for the job opportunity.

Audits/requests for information

Supporting documentation need not be filed with the ETA Form 9089, but the employer must provide the required supporting documentation if the employer's application is selected for audit or if the Certifying Officer otherwise requests it.

Retention of records

The employer is required to retain all supporting documentation for five years from the date of filing the ETA Form 9089.

Online filing

The employer has the option of filing an application electronically or by mail. However, the Department of Labor recommends that employers file electronically. Not only is electronic filing, by its nature, faster, but it will also ensure the employer has provided all required information, as an electronic application can not be submitted if the required fields are not completed. Additionally, when completing the ETA Form 9089 online, the preparer is provided prompts to assist in ensuring accurate data entry.

Approvals

If the appropriate National Processing Center approves the application, the ETA Form 9089 is "certified" (stamped) by the Certifying Officer and returned to the employer/employer representative who submitted the application.

After approval of the labor certification, the employer must file an "Immigrant Petition for an Alien Worker" with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Form I-140. The employer then attaches the certified ETA Form 9089 to a completed USCIS Form I-140, along with the appropriate fees, and submits the package to the appropriate USCIS Service Center. The petition is filed by the employer on behalf of the foreign worker and must include the approved labor certification and other USCIS specified documentation.

Schedule A is a list of occupations, set forth at 20 CFR 656.15, for which the Department has determined there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available. In addition, Schedule A establishes that the employment of aliens in such occupations will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.

The occupations listed under Schedule A include:

Physical Therapists: who possess all the qualifications necessary to take the physical therapist licensing examination in the state in which they propose to practice physical therapy; and

Professional Nurses: the alien (i) has a Commission on Graduates in Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) Certificate, (ii) the alien has passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam, or (iii) the alien holds a full and unrestricted (permanent) license to practice nursing in the state of intended employment.

Sciences or arts (except performing arts): Aliens (except for aliens in the performing arts) of exceptional ability in the sciences or arts including college and university teachers of exceptional ability who have been practicing their science or art during the year prior to application and who intend to practice the same science or art in the United States. For purposes of this group, the term "science or art" means any field of knowledge and/or skill with respect to which colleges and universities commonly offer specialized courses leading to a degree in the knowledge and/or skill. An alien, however, need not have studied at a college or university in order to qualify for the Group II occupation.

Performing arts: Aliens of exceptional ability in the performing arts whose work during the past 12 months did require, and whose intended work in the United States will require, exceptional ability.