General Questions about Labor Certifications

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What is the purpose of filing a Labor Certification?

Under U.S. immigration law, a key requirement in most employment-based immigration is obtaining "labor certification" through the U.S. Department of Labor. A Labor Certification is an application filed with and certified by the Department of Labor upon showing a lack of availability of qualified U.S. workers. Such certification requires employers to comply with strict filing and recruitment requirements which establish that the permanent employment of a foreign national in a specific position will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Employers are required to establish that they, despite completing the required recruitment campaign, could not find a willing and minimally qualified U.S. worker to fill the offered position. Once such a showing is made and certification granted, the employer may move on to the next step of filing an I-140 Immigrant petition with the USCIS.

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Why do RIR and traditional Labor Certification Applications take so long to approve?

While RIR was once lauded as a speedy approval process in comparison to its predecessor traditional labor certification system, it slowed significantly due to sheer volume. The situation was exacerbated by the backlog caused by the influx of filings at the end of April 2001 prior to the termination of the 245(i) provisions. Presently, the backlogged RIR and traditional Labor Certification applications are being processed by two Backlog Reduction Centers (BRCs). But because such large volumes of backlogged cases were transferred from local offices all over the country, each of which had different processing speeds and levels of backlog, the BRC’s processing rates continue to be slower than we would like. Processing times and status can be checked at [LINK] as detailed below.

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What is PERM and when was it introduced?

On March 28, 2005, the DOL introduced the PERM process whereby all labor certification applications are filed electronically and processing by the DOL occurs by a centralized computer system rather than relying on local offices to process applications by hand as was done under the old system. The regulations provide for a standard processing time of between 45 to 60 days (with exceptions) from the day a PERM application is satisfactorily filed. This represents a significant reduction in processing times which used to take between two and five plus years under the prior RIR and traditional labor certification process. Extensive recruitment is conducted prior to making the electronic submission and while evidence of such recruitment is not submitted at the time of filing, it is required to be kept on file for purposes of responding to random and targeted audits by the DOL. It is through such audits that recruitment is monitored by the DOL and strict measures are in place to weed out fraudulent applications.

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If my employer filed a traditional or RIR labor certification application for me under the old system and it still has not been approved, can I convert it under the new PERM labor certification process?

Conversion of previously filed Labor Certification Applications under the PERM system is appropriate in some cases. The advantage of conversion over new filings is that previously allocated priority dates may be maintained through conversion. However, eligibility requirements for conversion are extremely strict and due to the multiple factors impacting a PERM conversion, it is our strong recommendation that you consult with a licensed immigration attorney to discuss whether conversion is appropriate for you and issues related to the proper course of action for your particular case.

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How can I check the status of my labor certification?

In order to check the status of your application, you must know the DOL/ETA Case Number that your labor certification was designated. Most case number designations utilize the following format: P-12345-67890. Once you have located your DOL/ETA case number, you can enter it into the DOL’s case status page here.

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