When a U.S. employer sponsors a foreign worker for a green card (lawful permanent residence), the law usually requires the employer to complete a process known as labor certification, or "PERM." This process involves the U.S. employer undertaking a number of tasks, including placing multiple advertisements for the foreign worker’s prospective job and certifying to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that no willing and qualified American workers applied for the position.
The basic point of the PERM process is to prove to the DOL that the foreign worker will not displace any American worker by taking the job with the U.S. employer.
For new and experienced employers alike, the PERM process can be difficult and complicated. It involves several different and strict time frames and deadlines, rules regarding the content of advertisements, and so on. Here, we'll look at the basics of the first, recruitment phase of the PERM process, including both mandatory and additional recruitment steps.
NOTE: It is solely the employer's responsibility to pay for the PERM advertisements. By law, the foreign worker is prohibited from paying for any of the costs associated with PERM, which include the advertisements and attorney fees.
PERM Steps: A Basic Overview
PERM is basically a three-step process. This article focuses on the first step, in which the employer must recruit applicants for the job opportunity by placing required advertisements. But lets' take a quick look at where this fits into the big picture.
Step One: The employer must place three specific types of advertisements: a job order with the state’s workforce agency and two Sunday advertisements in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of intended employment. The employer also has to place a total of three additional advertisements, but has the option of choosing these three additional ads out of ten available options.
Step Two: While the advertisements are running, the employer must review all of the resumes received for the job opportunity. If the employer cannot disqualify a candidate based upon the candidate’s resume alone, the employer must contact the person for an interview. The employer must keep detailed records of all resumes received, interviews conducted, and reasons for rejecting all applicants.
Step Three: At the close of the recruitment period, the employer completes ETA Form 9089 and submits it electronically to the DOL. The ETA Form 9089 requires information about the employer’s recruitment procedure, information about the foreign worker’s education and work experience, and information about the job opportunity such as requirements, duties, position title, and so forth.
After PERM Approval: Once the DOL approves the PERM, the employer then files a visa petition on Form I-140 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS must approve the I-140 petition in order for the foreign worker to obtain a green card. For detailed information on the this, see "Filling Out Form I-140 to Sponsor an Immigrant Worker."
Mandatory Recruitment Steps Under PERM
The mandatory recruitment steps are the job order and the two Sunday newspaper advertisements.
First, the employer must place a job order with the workforce agency in the state where the job will be performed. For example, let’s say Company A wants to hire a foreign national to work in the position of Programmer Analyst. Company A is located in New York, but the Programmer Analyst will work in Massachusetts. Company A should post the job order with the Massachusetts workforce agency, NOT New York’s workforce agency.
All states vary on the requirements for their job orders. For example, Virginia requires that the employer’s job order include the position’s salary, the company’s benefits package, and the position’s proximity to public transportation. By contrast, New Jersey does not currently require this information on its job orders.
To place the job order, the employer should run an Internet search for the appropriate state “workforce agency” or “department of labor.” Most states require employers to create free Web accounts in order to place job orders. In general, these websites have very helpful FAQs and contact information for the employer to utilize if confused about any of the job order requirements.
The job order must run for 30 consecutive calendar days (and weekends are included in the 30-day count). Because of the importance of this time frame, it is highly recommended that employers let their job orders run for longer than 30 days, such as for 35 or 36 days, to make absolutely sure to comply with the 30-day rule.
Importantly, the employer cannot file the ETA Form 9089 until at least 30 days have elapsed since the date the job order ended. For example, let’s say an employer posted a job order to run from May 1, 2012 through May 31, 2012. The employer cannot file the ETA Form 9089 any earlier than June 30, 2012, because June 30 is the 30th day after the job order expired. (The purpose of this waiting period is to allow job applicants to apply for the position.)
The second and third mandatory recruitment steps are the two Sunday newspaper advertisements. The newspaper must be the newspaper of general circulation serving the area of intended employment. For example, if the area of intended employment is Washington, DC, the proper newspaper would be the Washington Post. The two ads may run on consecutive Sundays.
The Sunday newspaper ads must contain the following content:
- name of the employer
- instructions for applicants on where to send resumes
- a description of the job that is specific enough to apprise applicants of the position, and
- indication of the geographic location of the job, and any travel requirements, if applicable.
As you can see, the advertisements do not have to contain every single job duty and requirement. They don’t even have to mention the salary. However, the employer must be careful to make sure that the advertisements adequately inform applicants of the job opportunity.
There is another mandatory step that employers must complete called the "posting notice." The purpose of the posting notice is not really to advertise for the position, but merely to alert the employer’s current workers that the employer is filing a labor certification. The posting notice must be placed at the employer’s place of business for ten consecutive business days (weekends do NOT count for this time frame). The notice must contain the job title, duties, requirements, an attestation that the notice was posted for ten days, and the following language:
“This notice is being posted in connection with the filing of a Permanent Alien Labor Certification for the above mentioned position with the Department of Labor. Any person may provide documentary evidence bearing on the application to Certifying Office, United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Atlanta National Processing Center, Harris Tower, 233 Peachtree Street, NE, Suite 410, Atlanta, Georgia 30303.”
Importantly, after the employer takes the posting down, the employer should make a notation on the posting itself of how many responses the employer received in response to the notice. Typically, employers simply write this statement on the notice: "The company received _____ responses to this notice." The employer should maintain this notice in its records along with the evidence of the other advertisements.
Note that if there is a certified collective bargaining unit representative for the area of intended employment, the employer must provide this representative with the posting notice. However, in this case the employer does not have to also post the notice at the employer’s office.
Employers must also wait 30 days from the last date of the posting notice before filing the ETA Form 9089. Therefore, it is typically recommended that the employer post the notice during the same time frame that the job order is running, in order to avoid lengthy delays in filing the ETA Form 9089.
Choosing Three Additional Recruitment Steps
Along with the above mandatory recruitment, the employer is required to select three of the following ten additional methods of recruitment.
Sometimes, these additional recruitment steps are referred to as “optional.” This wording is misleading, however. The law mandates that the employer choose three additional advertisements. The only optional part is which three it chooses.
All of these ads must contain the same information that appears in the Sunday newspaper ads, so most employers simply use the same language for all of the PERM advertisements.
The following ten options are available to the employer:
- Place an advertisement on the company’s website: Many employers choose this option, as it is usually fairly easy and inexpensive to carry out. Employers should print out screenshots of their websites that display the advertisement and retain these as proof that the ad was placed.
- Recruit applicants at a job fair: If an employer is participating in a job fair, it should be a job fair that is likely to attract qualified applicants. For example, if the employer is seeking to fill a doctor’s position, it should not recruit at a computer tech job fair. Proof of this recruitment may be in the form of brochures showing the employer’s participation, and/or contracts with the vendor proving that the employer was at the fair.
- Engage in an employee referral program that provides incentives to current employees for recruiting new hires for the company: Typically this consists of a company-wide email or notice explaining the job opportunity and the benefits that a current employee will receive for referring a candidate (employers should retain a copy of this notice). There is no minimum benefit that is required, and benefits can include extra vacation days or a nominal cash bonus.
- On-campus recruiting at a local college: An employer can post a notice of its job opportunity at a college located in the state in which the job will take place, and make itself available to interview with students on a walk-in or predetermined basis. However, if the job requires several years of experience, this option will not be appropriate. Employers should maintain records of their appearances at colleges in the form of written agreements as proof of this recruitment.
- Place an advertisement with a job-search website other than the employer’s website: This is another popular option because it is relatively easy and inexpensive. Employers can contact websites such aswww.craigslist.com, www.Monster.com, and so forth, to place an ad. The employer should maintain a copy of the ad placed on the website.
- Place a radio/television advertisement: The employer should maintain a copy of the text of the ad, the contract with the station, and proof of payment (such as bank statements or cashed company checks.)
- Place an advertisement with the campus placement office of a local college: This option is a more passive form of recruitment than on-campus recruiting since it will be the candidate’s responsibility to contact the employer to schedule the interview. To prove this recruitment, the employer should retain copies of the notice mailed to the college and proof that the notice was delivered and posted at the college.
- Place an ad with a trade/professional organization: This method of recruitment is not available to all employers because not all industries have a professional organization. For example, if the position is for a surgeon, the employer could advertise with the American Medical Association through its publication, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- Place an advertisement with a local or ethnic newspaper: Employers also usually choose this option because it is typically simple and inexpensive. Most locales have several local and ethnic newspapers to choose from, and the employer is allowed to select any of these newspapers to run the advertisement.
- Place an advertisement with a private employment firm: The employer should maintain contracts between it and the firm to document this step.
Notably, the there is no time requirement for the three additional recruitment steps. For example, an employer could place an ad on its website for just one day, or for fifteen days. Or, an employer could place an ad to run in the local newspaper for just one day, or for a full week.
Here is a summary of the important time restrictions that employers must remember when completing the PERM process:
- The job order must run for 30 consecutive calendar days (which includes weekends).
- The posting notice must be posted for ten consecutive business day (which does NOT include business days).
- The employer must wait at least 30 days from the date that the job order or posting notice expires (whichever expires latest) to submit the ETA Form 9089 to the DOL.
- None of the advertisements can be older than 180 days at the time of filing. For example, let’s say an employer placed an ad in the local newspaper on January 1, 2012. Then the employer delayed posting the other ads and consequently was not ready to file the ETA Form 9089 until November 1, 2012 (taking into account the 30-day waiting period after the job order/posting notice). The employer can NOT use the January 1, 2012 ad on the ETA Form 9089 and will have to place a new ad to ensure that all three additional ads are complete.
- One of the additional ads (NOT the job order, or the posting notice or the Sunday newspaper ads) can be running during the 30-day waiting period. For example, let’s say and employer placed the Sunday ads on January 1, 2012 and January 8, 2012. The employer also placed the job order to run from January 1, 2012 to February 1, 2012. The employer cannot file the ETA Form 9089 until March 2, 2012 at the earliest. However, between February 1 and March 2, the employer may place the ad in the local newspaper (but only this one ad may be placed during the 30-day waiting period).
Employers must retain proof of all advertisements for a period of five years. This includes original newspapers that contain the advertisements, printouts from the state workforce agency website, the posting notice, and the rest.
For more information, see Employers Sponsoring Immigrants for Work Visas or Green Cards.