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Frequently Asked Questions: PERM

Employers seeking to obtain permanent residence for an employee from abroad must often obtain a “labor certification” from the Department of Labor (DOL) as a first step in the immigration process. DOL uses a system known as “Permanent Electronic Record Management” (PERM) through which all such applications must be filed.

Q. What Is PERM?

A. PERM is an online system through which employers can initiate the green card process for foreign national employees.  The PERM application is an attestation that the employer took certain steps to recruit U.S. workers and that they were unable to locate a qualified U.S. worker for the position. Employers are responsible for documenting their compliance with the recruitment steps enumerated in the regulations, but they will only submit that documentation to DOL if the application is audited by DOL.

Q. Where Are PERM Labor Certification Applications Processed?

A. PERM centralizes processing of labor certification applications at two national processing centers, one in Atlanta and one in Chicago.

Q. How Long Will It Take DOL To Process A PERM Application?

A. As with all processes in the immigration context, processing times are subject to change.  At present, the processing of a PERM application that is not audited is about 6 months.  Audited cases add significantly to these adjudication times.

Q. How Is Recruitment Being Handled Under PERM?

A. The DOL’s goal is to ensure nationally uniform requirements for the PERM process.  Employers must utilize several forms of recruitment within the six months prior to filing the application, must place a job order with the State Workforce Agency, must post an internal notice of the job opportunity on site at the company as well through any in-house company media in which jobs are ordinarily posted, and must secure a prevailing wage determination from the DOL.

Q. What Print Ads Are Required Under PERM?

A. Prior to filing an application for labor certification, an employer must place two advertisements on two different Sundays in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of intended employment. For higher-level positions requiring experience and an advanced degree, the employer may use an advertisement in a professional journal in place of one of the Sunday ads. Both ads must have been placed more than 30 days, but not more than 180 days, before filing, and may be placed on consecutive Sundays. The ad must list the name of the employer, the geographic area of employment (only if the job site is unclear, e.g., if applicants respond to a location other than the job site or if the employer has multiple job sites), and a description of the position specific enough to apprise U.S. workers of the job opportunity. The employer may include minimum education and experience requirements or specific job duties in the ad as long as those requirements also appear on Application for Permanent Employment Certification, Form 9089. The ad must direct applicants to send resumes or report to the employer, as appropriate. The employer’s physical address is not required. A central office or post office box may be designated for receipt of resumes. The ad need not include the salary or a detailed listing of the job description and requirements. However, if the ad does include the salary, the salary stated must meet or exceed the prevailing wage, as determined by the DOL.

Q. Must A State Job Order Be Placed Under PERM?

A. The employer must place a job order with its state’s job bank for the position. The job order should contain the same information as the advertisement, and the employer should request that the job bank refer any potentially qualified applicants directly to the employer.

Q. Are Recruitment Steps For Professional And Non-Professional Jobs The Same?

A. The recruitment for a professional occupation (those for which the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree is the usual education requirement) consists of a job order and two print ads plus three additional steps. The recruitment for non-professional occupations consists only of a job order and the two Sunday advertisements.

Q. What Are The Three Additional Recruitment Steps for Professional Jobs?

A. In addition to the two Sunday ads, an employer must also perform three additional recruitment steps, choosing from the following options:

(1) attendance at job fairs;

(2) advertisement of the position on the employer’s website;

(3) advertisement of the position on a job search website other than employer’s, including an ad on a newspaper’s web site in conjunction with a print ad;

(4) participation in on-campus recruiting;

(5) placing a notice in a newsletter or publication of a trade or professional organization; (

6) retaining private employment firms;

(7) including the position in an employee referral program, if it includes identifiable incentives;

(8) placing a notice of the job opening at a campus placement office, if the job requires a degree but no experience;

(9) advertisement in local and ethnic newspapers, to the extent they are appropriate for the job opportunity; and

(10) placing radio and television advertisements.

The employer must choose three distinct options. With respect to these additional steps, an employer may advertise either for the specific job opportunity, or merely for the occupation involved in the application. All three recruitment steps must have taken place no more than 180 days before filing, but only one of the steps may have taken place within 30 days of filing. The employer must specify the dates of each of the three additional recruitment steps it has undertaken on the application form, and maintain documentation of the recruitment step, such as a dated printout from a website, or a flyer announcing the employer’s participation in a job fair.

Q. Does PERM Require An Employer to Post a Notice of Job Opportunity?

A. An employer must post a Notice of Job Opportunity in conjunction with the outside recruitment for the position. The notice must be posted for a period of ten business days, and the notice period may be no more than 180 days before filing and no less than 30 days before filing. The Notice is posted at a location such as an employee notification bulletin board in an area accessible to all of the employer’s employees. The Notice must contain the salary for the position, but may contain a salary range so long as the lower level of the range meets or exceeds the prevailing wage. The notice may contain the same description of the position as is placed in the newspaper advertisement, and should include a contact person for employees who wish to apply for the position. In addition, the notice must contain language indicating that the posting is in connection with an application for labor certification, and that any person having information bearing on the application can submit that information to the DOL.

Importantly, in addition to a printed posted notice, an employer must place the notice in any and all in-house media, whether electronic or printed, in accordance with normal procedures used for recruitment for similar positions in the organization. The notification must include all information posted in print, including salary range and DOL contact information. Since the notification in such media need only be done if it is the employer’s normal practice to do so for the job classification in issue in the application, an employer could avoid listing executive-level positions if it is not normal practice to do so. Duration of the in-house media notification should be as long as other comparable positions are posted.

Q. Can An Employer Use Qualification in Excess of What DOL Considers “Normal?”

A. DOL will generally not allow an employer to use job requirements that exceed the requirements for a position as found in the DOL’s description of the occupation in its Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system unless the employer can justify it on the basis of “business necessity.” To meet this exception, the employer must show that the requirements are reasonably related to the position and necessary to perform the job duties in the context of the employer’s operation. This ability to deviate from the SOC system is important, as that system categorizes jobs into far fewer categories than the Dictionary of Occupational Titles formerly used to measure “normal” requirements.

Q. Can Experience Gained With The Petitioning Employer Be Used?

A. Employers may use experience gained by a foreign national with the petitioning employer (as an employee or contractor), but only where the experience was gained in a position that was not “substantially comparable” to the position involved in the labor certification. A prior position will be considered “substantially comparable” if at least 50% of the duties of the two positions are the same. For example, if a software engineer who spends 100% of her time implementing software is promoted to a team leader position in which she spends 20% of her time managing and 80% of her time implementing software, the two positions are “substantially comparable” and her experience as a software engineer cannot be used to qualify her for the position of team leader (of course, her experience prior to joining the employer as a software engineer could be used, if it was enough to qualify her as a team leader).

Q. Is The Use Of Alternative Experience Permitted?

A. Any alternative means for a worker to be considered qualified must be “substantially equivalent” to the primary means of being considered qualified. For example, if the labor certification application involves a household cook position, it would be reasonable to require one year of experience as a household cook or, alternatively, one year of experience as a restaurant cook, as the two periods of cooking experience are comparable. It would not be reasonable to require one year as a cook or, alternatively, one year of experience as a “household worker with some cooking duties” as the alternative requirement is less stringent than the primary requirement.

Q. If The Job Requires Four Skills And A Job Applicant Lacks One Of These Four Skills, Is This A Lawful Reason To Reject The Applicant?

A. Lack of one of four required skills may not be enough to lawfully reject an otherwise qualified U.S. worker. The employer will need to explore and evaluate whether the U.S. worker applicant could perform the job with a reasonable amount of on the job training in the lacking skill(s). What is reasonable will depend on the particular employer and the job opportunity. For example, if it would not be reasonable to spend six months training a U.S. worker in one of the required four skills, this would need to be explained and documented.

Q. What Salary Does PERM Require Employers To Pay In Connection With The Labor Certification Position?

A. An employer must submit a Prevailing Wage Request on Form ETA-9141 to the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) before filing the Labor Certification application and, preferably, before initiating recruitment. The NPWC uses DOL’s Online Wage Library to provide a wage level based on a formula that compares the employer’s requirements to the DOL’s criteria. The employer also has the option of using a qualifying survey, which must meet certain specified criteria to be considered acceptable, but this survey must be submitted to the NPWC and approved before the process is initiated.

The employer must attest that it will pay 100% of the prevailing wage at the time that the foreign national beneficiary obtains permanent residence on the basis of the Labor Certification.

Q. How Long Is The PWD Valid?

A. The validity period of the prevailing wage is noted on the ETA-9141.  It must be valid for at least 90 days and no more than one year from the determination date on the form. Employers must either begin the recruitment, or file their PERM applications, within the validity period on the ETA-9141.

Q. What Recruitment Documentation Must Be Prepared By Employer?

A. The employer must prepare documentation of all of its recruitment steps, such as newspaper tearsheets for advertisements and printouts of web sites. The employer should maintain copies of all resumes or applications submitted in connection with the recruitment steps. In addition, the employer must prepare a recruitment report that describes the recruitment steps taken and the results. This report shall include the number of hires and the number of U.S. workers rejected, categorized by the lawful job‑related reasons for rejection. Although it does not need to include the identity of the individual U.S. workers who applied for the job opportunity, it must track them sufficiently that an auditor can determine which resumes were evaluated for each job opportunity. The employer must sign the recruitment report and retain it as part of the supporting documentation.

Q. What Must Employer Do If Application Is Selected For Audit?

A. If an application is selected for audit, the employer is required to provide the supporting documentation within 30 days of a request by a Certifying Officer (CO). After the documentation has been submitted, the CO can approve the application or deny the application. In addition, if the Certifying Officer is not satisfied that the documentation establishes unavailability of U.S. workers, the CO may require supervised recruitment after the filing. The supervised recruitment will involve a new newspaper advertisement and job order, this one directing responses to the CO, and the employer will be expected to give an applicant-by-applicant evaluation of whether the applicants met the qualifications for the position. If an employer fails to respond to a request for documentation, or is deemed to have misrepresented the recruitment steps it took or its reasons for rejecting U.S. workers, the CO may require the employer to use supervised recruitment for all of its applications for a period of up to two years.

Q. How Long Must Employer Retain Recruitment Documentation?

A. The employer must retain its recruitment documentation for five (5) years from the date of filing of the application, as the DOL may reopen its labor certification determination even after approval and conduct an audit.