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PERM stands for Program Electronic Review Management. PERM processing is an integral part of the process of obtaining a Green Card or permanent residency through employment in the United States.
If this is something you are looking to do, then keep reading to get all your questions answered. We will even cover the big question: "How long will it all take?"
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Why is PERM Processing Necessary?
PERM processing is how foreign nationals can obtain a labor certificate. This process is necessary because the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has strict regulations regarding the circumstances in which someone can receive a Green Card.
These regulations require that the employee makes efforts to hire American citizens before awarding positions to foreign nationals. The Department of Labor (DOL) will conduct a labor market test to determine which jobs employers should offer to foreign nationals. Employers must also be able to prove that they were unable to hire qualified Americans before trying to hire a foreign national.
The DOL must clear an employee's approved Permanent Labor Certification before their employer can begin the application for a Green Card.
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What Steps Comprise PERM Processing?
Unfortunately, PERM processing is a lengthy process that requires several different steps. The average PERM processing time can be several months, so you should not expect anything to happen overnight.
The first thing that must happen is that the employer must create a job description. This description must detail all the minimum requirements for that job location. It must also include the necessary attributes of the ideal candidate. An overview of the existing recruitment process is also needed.
How long this step takes varies from employer to employer. Most employers take one to two months to complete this step.
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Acquisition of Prevailing Wage Determination from the Department of Labor
Next, the employer must acquire prevailing wages determination (PWD) from the DOL. This documentation tells the employer how much they will need to pay any foreign nationals they hire.
The DOL has an Online Wage Library in which they will compare the employer's job description to other similar jobs on several criteria including:
- Required Management
Every part of the United States features different job markets with unique average wages. Therefore, each job must compare to other jobs in similar areas. Differing costs of living are the predominant reason for these disparities.
It can take four to five months for the DOL to give an employer a PWD. This time frame can extend further if the employer does not agree with its assigned PWD. In this situation, the employer can change the job description and refile for a PWD. Their other option is to request a reassessment to get to a PWD with which they agree.
Employers generally wait until after they have received their PWD before beginning their recruitment processes. However, sometimes these steps can happen congruently as long as the approved Perm Labor Certificate (LC) has been filed before the PWD expires.
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Once the PWD is received, the employer has 60 to 180 days to file an LC for a foreign national. We urge employers to put out all advertisements for the position at the same time. This way, it is easier to meet requirements within 180 days.
If an ad is older than 180 days, then the employer cannot use it for PERM processing time. This mistake can extend the process significantly.
ETA Form 9089 Filing
After placing advertisements for the position, the employer can file a PERM application. They can do this by filling out the ETA Form 9089. However, the employer can only submit this form if no qualified Americans have applied for the position.
The ETA Form 9089 lets the DOL know basic information about the job, recruitment process, and prospective foreign employee. Once this is filed, it can take a few months to adjudicate PERM. Once this is complete, there are three possible outcomes.
- Approval of PERM
- Denial of PERM
- Audit review of PERM
If the result is an audit review, then the DOL will require additional information from the employer to reevaluate PERM. The DOL generally requires conducting audit reviews of about 30% of the applications. In the end, the DOL will either approve or deny PERM.
It is also important to note that being flagged for audit is not necessarily a cause for panic. The DOL randomly flags some cases for review to ensure the integrity of the process and check their procedures.
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What is Next After PERM?
Once the DOL has approved PERM, the employer can go forward to the next stage of the Green Card process. The immediate next step would be to fill out the Form I-140. This form must be filed within 180 days of the PERM approval.
How Can I Check My PERM Status?
There are a few different ways that foreign nationals can keep tabs on their PERM status:
The first would be to double-check the DOL website to see their latest estimates of processing times.
If the employer filed PERM online, then you could visit the Permanent Case Management System to check the status of their paperwork.
Finally, the employer could call the National Processing Center at 404-893-0101 or email them at plc.atlanta.dol.gov regardless of the way the PERM was filed to receive information about its status.
What Can I Do if There is a Delay?
Hopefully, the above information has given you some insights into how long this process can take. You should not be discouraged if this entire process from start to finish takes over a year. It can also fluctuate due to external factors and spikes in perm applications; the DOL processes paperwork in the order it was received.
However, if you experience excessive delays, then you should consider consulting a lawyer that is well-versed in immigration law. You should become concerned if you can see that the DOL has started to work on cases filed three months after yours was submitted. However, make sure to contact the Help Desk before going as far as to hire an attorney.
In the event of a Government shutdown, expect even further delays in the perm processing times. Keep in mind that they will continue reviewing appeals, processing pwd requests and other activities as soon as things return to normal.
What You Need To Know About Average PERM Processing Times
While it can be remarkably challenging to remain calm while waiting for a determination that could change your life forever, it is imperative to be patient. PERM processing times are a bureaucratic procedure that takes a significant amount of time. Becoming overly anxious or upset will only decrease your quality of life without helping anything to be accomplished any quicker.
As long as you and your employer work together to get everything filled out correctly and turned in on time, there is no reason you won't be well on your way to permanent residency. Staying calm while remaining diligent will ensure success during the PERM processing time and the entire Green Card acquisition process.