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 U.S. workers applied for the position.
For new and experienced employers alike, the PERM process can be difficult. It involves several strict timeframes and deadlines, rules regarding the content of advertisements, and more. Here, we'll look at the basics of the first, recruitment phase of the PERM process, including both mandatory and additional recruitment steps.
The basic point of the full PERM process is to prove to the DOL that the foreign worker will not displace any United States worker by taking the job with the U.S. employer. The U.S. government expects employers to make a good faith effort to hire from within the United States first, without turning to a foreign national. And publicizing the job widely and actually interviewing candidates is an obvious way to do that.
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 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 let's take a quick look at where this fits into the big picture.
Step One: The U.S. employer of a foreign national 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 appropriate to the type of employment. The employer also has to place a total of three additional advertisements, but has the option of choosing these ads out of ten available options.
Step Two: While the job advertisements are running, the employer must review all of the resumes received for the job opportunity. If the employer cannot clearly and obviously disqualify a U.S.-based 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.
The mandatory recruitment steps for the employer seeking to hire a foreign national and sponsor that person for a green card are the job order and 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, one state might require 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, another state might not require the salary 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 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 (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, 2022 through May 31, 2022. The employer cannot file the ETA Form 9089 any earlier than June 30, 2022, because June 30 is the 30th day after the job order expired. (The purpose of this waiting period is to allow any interested person to provide the Department of Labor with information that could be relevant to the application.)
The second mandatory recruitment step is the two Sunday newspaper advertisements, which must contain:
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 typically do NOT count for this time frame, though they might if the employer can show that its operations are open on the weekends and that the position regularly involves weekend shifts.) 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 the Certifying Officer of the United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, [plus the appropriate address].
Since August 25, 2021, that address is:
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration
Office of Foreign Labor Certification
200 Constitution Avenue NW, Room N-5311
Washington, DC 20210.
The one exception is for applications involving supervised recruitment, which must continue to be sent to this (older) address:
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration
Office of Foreign Labor Certification, Atlanta National Processing Center
Attn: Supervised Recruitment
P.O. Box 56625
Atlanta, GA 30343.
Importantly, after taking the posting down, the employer should make a notation on the posting itself of how many responses it 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.
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.
Along with the above mandatory recruitment, the employer is required to select three of the following ten additional methods of recruitment for "professional" occupations, which means jobs that normally require at least a bachelor's degree.
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:
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 15 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:
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. It's possible the U.S. government will inspect these at some point.
For more information, see Employers Sponsoring Immigrants for Work Visas or Green Cards.