What is Green Card PERM Process? Processing Times? FAQs

Many of the foreign nationals arrive in US on a temporary work visa and eventually apply for Green Card under Employment based Immigration route. There are limited number of green cards issued per year due to numerical limits set by US Congress. There is extreme amount of demand for getting green cards. To give you an idea, employment based Green Card wait list hit 1.2 million in year 2020. In this article, we will cover all details related to Permanent Labor Certification(PERM), which is the most important step for getting Green Card based on Employed based category.

What is PERM Labor Certification for Green Card ?

One of the very first steps to apply for a Green Card under Employment based category is to file for permanent labor certification(PERM). This is commonly refereed by many as PERM or PERM Labor Certification. Before an immigrant visa petition is filed with USCIS (an agency of Depart of Homeland Security), the US employer must obtain a permanent labor certification.

US Department of Labor (DOL) issues PERM labor certification to allow US employers to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the United States. As part of the PERM Labor Certification, DOL must ensure that hiring a foreign worker does not adversely affect the labor conditions of US workers. DOL also ensures that the wage offered to foreign workers is comparable to other US workers offered in a similar position. This is done through the prevailing wage determination process.

Guide to Apply for PERM Labor Certification

PERM Labor Certification is one of the lengthiest and cumbersome processes among all the other processes involved with immigration. Employers and immigration attorneys have to follow through with several steps to make sure that there are no qualifying US workers available for the offered position. Below is a step by step guide for getting PERM Labor Certification.

Step 1 – Prevailing Wage Determination and Certification

Prevailing wage determination is one of the crucial steps of the PERM Labor Certification. The employer has to classify the offered position to the foreign worker by providing Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Systems data like

  • SOC Title
  • SOC Code
  • Wage Level
  • Wage Offered

To determine the wage, employers may use Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OES) Survey rates available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics (an agency of DOL) or Non-OES survey rates offered by third-party organizations like Radford Global Technology Survey.

ETA Form 9141 is used to file prevailing wage determination requests. These requests are filed through the new FLAG System ( previously it used to be iCERT) which assigns a Unique identifier generated to each employer application.  Case numbers appear in the following format:

[Prevailing Wage Application Designation]-[3-digit Visa ID]-[5-digit Julian Date]-[6-digit Random Number] 

e.g. P-100 - 19160 - 392191

3 digit Visa ID for PERM applications is 100.

Step 2 – Job Advertisement and Recruitment

This is one of the important phases of PERM process and has to be executed carefully to avoid any issues with your PERM application processing with DOL. There are instances like Dept of Justice(DOJ) vs Facebook, where DOJ found out that there are irregularities with Facebook’s advertising and recruitment practices for the permanent job positions created for visa holders.

Job Advertisement Process for PERM

The job advertisement and recruitment process is pretty standard and is in line with the employer’s general job advertisement and recruitment process. In this phase, the employer has to advertise the permanent job position in the below-mentioned places (not an exhaustive list)

  • Local State Workforce Agency (SWA)
  • News paper print ads and online ads
  • Local news papers
  • Job boards/portals (including employer’s official job portal)
  • Recruitment through Job fairs and on campus
  • AM/FM Radio or TV ads

There are certain specific requirements from DOL regarding the permanent worker position job advertisement and recruitment. The specific requirements include but are not limited to

  • Posting the advertisement for a minimum period of 30 days
  • News paper advertising has to be on two consecutive Sunday editions
  • Advertising the job position internally for a minimum period of 10 days
  • Job advertisement must include name of the employer, contact information, job description, job location, optionally the wage offered to this position

Recruitment Process for PERM

All the US applicants who respond to the job advertisements and satisfy the minimum requirements needed for the job position must be invited for an interview and evaluate based on the interview performance. For all the rejections, the employer has to provide legally admissible reasons to the applicants.

Throughout this process employer and the attorneys collect a lot of documentation that may not be submitted along with your PERM application but will be used if there is any audit review that comes up on the PERM LC application. So it is crucial to collect all the relevant information during this phase of PERM LC. Hiring managers of the employers also play a crucial role in this process. Employers mostly engage with third-party agencies who are specialized in this process.

Step 3 – File Application for PERM (ETA Form 9089)

Application for Permanent Employment Certification can be submitted using ETA Form 9089. This form can be filed online at http://www.plc.doleta.gov/ . Applications can also be mailed to DOL application processing center local to the state.

Employer or attorney, who files for PERM application, has to provide the below information during the application filing:

  • Employer Details and Contact Information
  • Agent or Attorney Information
  • Prevailing Wage Determination Information
  • Wage Offer Information
  • Job Opportunity Information
  • Recruitment Information
  • Alien Information and Work Experience

Steps after filing PERM Application

Once the PERM Labor Certification is submitted to DOL, a case number is generated for each of the applications. PERM Labor Certification Case Number is a unique 11 digit number. The case number is of the format A-XXXXX-XXXXX. It starts with an upper case ‘A’ or ‘C’ followed by two 5 digits numbers separated by a hyphen. Example: A-09245-62715. The letter ‘A’ stands for Atlanta National Processing Center and ‘C’ stands for Chicago National Processing Center.

There is no publicly available process on what happens internally with respect to PERM application at DOL. But at a high level, it goes through analyst review and some PERM applications are picked for auditing and finally adjudication happens for the PERM LC applications. Below are the three key steps that happen

  1. Analyst Review
  2. Audit Review
  3. Final Adjudication

Final Statuses of PERM Application

PERM Labor Certification applications can have one of the following states after the case is adjudicated. The statuses names are self explanatory.

  • Certified
  • Withdrawn
  • Certified – Expired
  • Denied

If everything goes well, the PERM labor certification will be Certified by DOL and the employer can proceed with next steps of filing I-140 with USCIS.

Green Card PERM Processing Times

There are a lot of unknowns and unpredictable things in the overall PERM Labor Certification process and that makes it difficult to accurately estimate the processing times. However, based on the average processing times, it usually takes anywhere between 6 to 12 months to get a decision on PERM filing.

Below are the processing time estimates for each of the PERM processing steps.

  1. Prevailing Wage determination : average of 3 – 6 months (based on FLAG DOL)
  2. Job posting and Recruitment : average of 2 -3 months
  3. PERM LC Application Approval : average of 6 – 9 months (based on FLAG DOL)

You can check our website’s PERM Filings listing by company to see the average processing it takes for PERM processing. Below is an PERM filings listing of Microsoft

PERM Processing times Microsoft
PERM Processing times Microsoft

The official website to check the current processing times of PERM is at : https://flag.dol.gov/processingtimes . If your PERM Labor Certification application is picked for an audit, then it would take an additional amount of time than the usual time.

Common FAQs on PERM

Can employee/individual file PERM?

No. Only the sponsoring employer/company can file for PERM.

My employer laid-off employees in the recent past. Does it affect the PERM process?

Yes. The employer should not have had any layoffs in the last six months before submitting the PERM LC application to DOL.

Does PERM approval has an expiration?

Yes. An employer must file an immigrant visa application I-140 within 180 days of PERM Labor Certification approval. Otherwise, the PERM LC will be expired and the process resets.

How is PERM Labor Certification related to the I-140 application?

Each immigration application petition (I-140) submitted to USCIS must be accompanied by an approved PERM Labor Certification

Is PERM Labor Certification specific to an employee?

Yes. Unlike H1B LCA, PERM Labor Certification and the case number associated with it are specific to an employee and are tied to the employer who filed it.

Do I need to be in the US if my company wants to file PERM ?

No. The employee can be outside of the US while the PERM Labor Certification process is happening.

What are your comments on the PERM Labor Certification process? Share your PERM filing experiences below in the comments.

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