The most common path to an employment-based green card is a three-step process that is commonly known by the name of the online system in which it is filed – PERM (Program Electronic Review Management System). To begin, a company will complete the labor certification process through the Department of Labor’s PERM system. Next, based on the approved PERM, the company will file an I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker with USCIS on behalf of the foreign national employee. Finally, based on the approved I-140, the beneficiary (including spouse and children under 21) will apply for Adjustment of Status in the US or process an immigrant visa at a US Consulate or Embassy abroad to become a Lawful Permanent Resident.

The labor certification is essentially a test of the US labor market to establish there is not a US worker willing, able, qualified, and available to fill the position at that time. In this context, US workers include US citizens, lawful permanent residents, and aliens who are legally authorized to work permanently in the US. In general, labor certifications are not a viable path to permanent residence for company founders because the process does not allow for self-employment.

The process starts by submitting a detailed job description to the Department of Labor for a Prevailing Wage Request. Once the DOL determines the minimum amount the employer may pay its employee, then the recruitment can begin, which usually takes 30 days. There is then a 30-day wait period where the company must continue to accept applications. After the recruitment and wait period has ended, the actual PERM application may be filed so long as a willing, able, qualified, and available US worker has not accepted the position. The application is filed online with the DOL, and once approved, the final two steps in the green card process can be completed with USCIS. 

Colleges and Universities are also able to make use of a special type of PERM process, known as special handling, for their foreign national employees with teaching duties.  This process allows academic institutions to engage in a less intensive recruitment process with a less restrictive standard than the basic PERM process (i.e. they may move forward with the employee if he or she is more qualified than any U.S. applicant).

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