The process by which the employer asks the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to certify that there are no available, qualified, willing, and able U.S. workers to fill certain position within the company. Therefore, the company is requesting the DOL to grant it permission to employ a foreign national on a permanent basis.

On March 27, 2005, the Labor Certification system was completely overhauled from a two-tier state and federal system to one national system known as PERM (Program Electronic Review Management). PERM is the online system used to submit labor certification applications. The new PERM regulations not only maintain the recruitment requirements of the old system, but also implements additional requirements. Whereas companies previously submitted all supporting documentation to the local state department of labor, under PERM only the application is submitted online. The company or its attorney is required to maintain all of the supporting documentation for the application, which the Department of Labor may audit at any time.

PERM requires advertisement in local high-circulation newspaper (e.g. The Boston Globe, The New York Times), placement of position in state agency job bank for 30 days, and internal posting; professional positions require additional recruitment. The sponsoring employer must review all resumes submitted by U.S. candidates, interview possibly qualified candidates, and prepare a report delineating legally permissible reasons why the U.S. candidates are not qualified for position. If one U.S. worker surfaces who meets the MINIMUM requirements of the position (not necessarily the most qualified candidate), labor certification will be rejected unless the company has multiple positions that can be filled by the U.S. worker and the foreign national.

Processing time = Although DOL has promised a 30-45 day turnaround for PERM cases, some adjudications are taking 4-6 months.

The process by which the USCIS determines if the foreign national is qualified for the position certified in stage one, and whether s/he is admissible to or excludable from the U.S. If the foreign national has a spouse for whom s/he wishes to obtain derivative permanent resident status, s/he must submit the spouse’s documentation at this stage.

Processing time = approximately 6-12 months in the Vermont Service Center (VSC). The VSC has jurisdiction over the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The process by which a foreign national adjusts her or his status from a nonimmigrant to an immigrant and becomes a permanent resident. This stage requires fingerprints, a medical examination, proof of ability to financially support oneself, and an interview.

Processing time = approximately 12-24 months in the VSC.