Green Cards (Common)
National Interest Waivers
Professors & Researchers
Executives & Managers
PERM Labor Certification
Investors (EB-5 visas)
Family (Spouse, etc.)
Work Visas (Common)
O-1 Extraordinary Ability
TN Canadians & Mexicans
J-1 Visa Holders
Nurses & Physical Therapists
Frequently Asked Questions about Labor Certification
Labor certification is frequently the first step in the employment-based, permanent residency process. This page seeks to answer questions frequently asked about labor certification. These questions are divided into the following five areas:
There are three main requirements to qualify for labor certification:
The prevailing wage is determined by Department of Labor wage statistics, or by data from a qualifying salary survey of employers in the geographical area of the job.
Under the "standard" labor certification filing procedure, the employer files the labor certification application with the foreign labor certification unit of the appropriate state workforce agency (typically in the state in which the job is located). The state workforce agency provides the employer with instructions for advertising the position. The employer places the required advertising, completes the recruitment and interviewing, and forwards its recruitment report to the state workforce agency.
The state workforce agency reviews and forwards the application to
the regional office of the U.S. Department of Labor. The regional office
of the U.S. Department of Labor then makes a decision about whether to
"certify" (i.e., approve) the labor certification application. If the
U.S. Department of Labor certifies the labor certification application,
then the employer becomes eligible to file a green card application for
the foreign worker at the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS).
What does the State Workforce Agency (SWA) do with the application in a "standard" labor certification case?
The state workforce agency reviews the description of job duties and evaluates the employer's stated minimum requirements for the job. The state agency then determines the prevailing rate of pay and, if necessary, gives the employer a chance to amend wages and/or the job requirements that do not comply with labor certification regulations.
What does the employer have to do once the state workforce agency reviews and evaluates the application in a "standard" labor certification case?
Once the application is complete, the state workforce agency oversees the employer's
recruitment of U.S. workers, by placing a job order in the statewide job
bank system or equivalent. The employer must post an announcement of the
job opportunity at its place of business along with a notice of the
filing of a labor certification application. The employer must
also place an advertisement in whichever publication the state agency
determines to be most appropriate for the particular occupation.
What does the state workforce agency do after the employer files a recruitment report in a "standard" labor certification case?
The state workforce agency analyzes the employer's recruitment efforts and the employer's evaluation of the U.S. applicants. The agency then advises the employer of any deficiencies to be corrected and assembles the documentation to be forwarded to the regional office of the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL").
For more information, please go to our Standard Labor Certification Process page.
I have heard that the PERM program will greatly speed up labor certification applications. Should I file my labor certification application now, or wait until PERM becomes available?
Although the Department of Labor has released a proposed rule about the new PERM program, this program is not yet available. Currently, there is no firm date when PERM will become available. Whether you should wait to file your labor certification application depends on many factors, including your immigration status, the length of time remaining for your status, job security, and the backlogs in your state. Given the uncertainty around when the PERM program will be available, it may be best to start your labor certification application as soon as possible.
For more information, please go to our PERM - The Future of Labor Certifications page.
What does the U.S. Department of Labor do with the labor certification application after receiving it from the state work force agency?
After the state work force agency forwards the application ("standard" or "RIR" case) and supporting documentation to the regional office of the U.S. Department of Labor, the regional DOL office reviews the labor certification application and either "certifies" (i.e., approves) the application or issues a Notice of Findings. A Notice of Findings is simply a document stating that the DOL intends to deny the application and explaining why it intends to deny it. (Sometimes, the regional DOL office sends a request for the employer to conduct additional advertising.) The DOL considers the originally submitted application, together with any additional information the employer may have subsequently provided, and then makes a decision. The decision is based on whether the DOL believes the employer has met the requirements of the federal regulations governing the foreign labor certification program.
Where is the appropriate place to file a labor certification application involving a worker who will be employed at various unanticipated work sites?
Applications that require the foreign worker to work at several locations in the U.S. are usually filed with the state work force agency having jurisdiction over the area in which the employer's main office or headquarters is located.
The process to obtain a permanent labor certification can sometimes take several years by the time the application makes its way through the entire two-step process at the state workforce agency and the DOL regional office. Some cases are extremely complex and require additional evaluation. You can find current processing times for all DOL regional offices and state workforce agencies on the Labor Certification Processing Times page.
Is labor certification always required to obtain a green card based on employment?
No. For some employment-based green card opportunities, a labor certification is not required. The employment-based green card opportunities that do not require an approved labor certification application are: Aliens of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors or Researchers, Multinational Executives or Managers, and National Interest Waivers.