Most applications for green cards based on employment sponsorship require a three-stage process: PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) application (online application for labor certification from Department of Labor); I-140 (visa petition by the employer filed with USCIS) and I-485 application for adjustment of status to permanent resident. The I-485 and request for employment authorization can occur only when the applicant’s visa number is available; that is, only when the priority date becomes current, which in certain circumstances may be years after the PERM and I-140 are approved. An applicant should be in valid status in the meantime (with limited exceptions) or may have to process for the green card abroad.
In most cases, before an employer can submit an immigrant visa petition to the USCIS, the employer must prepare and obtain an approved labor certification from the Department of Labor. The employer must obtain a prevailing wage for the job from the appropriate state agency. After that, the employer must complete a series of recruitment (advertising) steps for the job to see if there are any available and qualified American workers, with additional recruitment conditions for professional positions. The DOL must certify to the USCIS that there are no U.S. workers able, willing, qualified, and available to accept the job at the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment, and that employment of the alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. Our office helps the employer fulfill every step of the process.
1. The employer must register with the DOL prior to filing the application online.
2. The date the labor certification application (Form ETA 9089) is the filing date (priority date).
3. If the 9089 form is approved, it must be submitted to the USCIS with an I-140 immigrant petition for alien worker, with other proof including the employer’s ability to pay the required wage.
4. The employer must offer the alien a full-time job and there must be a bona fide job opportunity for other workers.
5. Once the priority date is current, the applicant can apply for adjustment of status (application for permanent residence, a green card, in the U.S.) and work authorization. The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin, published each month, lists the current priority dates in each category.
There are limited circumstances in which a labor certification/PERM application is not required for employment-sponsored immigration, for example, for an applicant with extraordinary ability, outstanding professor or researcher, or multinational executive (known as category EB-1), or an applicant applying for a national interest waiver (EB-2).