Labor certification is often the first step in the process of becoming a Green Card holder for those who come to the United States as immigrant workers. A labor certification is issued by the United States Department of Labor to one’s potential employer, and must be obtained before an employer may file an employment based petition for immigration on the alien’s behalf.
Labor Certification applications are filed with PERM (Program Electronic Review Management); an electronic system for filing application directly with the Department of Labor. PERM requires an employer to register with the Department of Labor electronically and openly conduct a search for a qualified employee within the domestic labor pool before a labor certification may be granted.
The granting of a labor certification ensures that certain requirements have been met regarding the alien employee and the employment position. Namely, obtaining a labor certification proves that the prospective employee is skilled in the area of employment and meets the qualifications required by the employer, the employer has made substantial effort to find an employee in the domestic labor market but has been unsuccessful in doing so, and the employment of the alien in the prospective field/position will not work adversely in regards to domestic employees. Labor certification is only granted after a thorough process whereby the employer must make a good faith effort to find an employee within the domestic market who meets the qualifications for an employment position and, only failing to so find as determined by the Department of Labor, will be granted an approved labor certification. The process of labor certification can take anywhere from several months to several years, however once certification is granted, it can never expire so long as the job in question remains available. It is important to note that the labor certification does NOT grant an alien the right to work in the US, it is merely the first step in acquiring an I-140 and applying for permanent resident status.
An I-140 petition (Immigrant Petition for Alien Work) is used when an alien worker wishes to apply for permanent residency (a Green Card) in the US. An I-140 is the second step (after the labor certification and before or in congruence with an I-485 Adjustment of Status form) in becoming a permanent resident. The petition is usually filed by an employer (but may be filed by the petitioner him or her self in certain circumstances) when the employee meets any of the enumerated criteria (e.g. possess an advanced degree, has a special skill or remarkable academic credentials etc.)