By Elsie Hui Arias, Esq. and Robert L. Reeves, Esq.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has finally published regulations to implement its new streamlined labor certification system, entitled “Program Electronic Review Management” or “PERM.” PERM, which will be effective March 28, 2005, will greatly expedite the labor certification process for any immigrant workers seeking permanent residency through their employers.

The labor certification process is necessary for alien workers to gain lawful permanent residence through an employer-sponsor for most occupations. Before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may approve immigrant visa petitions, the DOL must first certify to the USCIS that: (1) “there are not sufficient U.S. workers, who are able, willing, qualified, and available at the time of the application for a visa and admission into the U.S. and at the place where the alien is to perform the work; and (2) the employment of the alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

Under the current regulations, applications for labor certification can take several years to be approved by the DOL. However, under the PERM system, labor certifications could be certified by the DOL in only 45-60 days from the date of filing. The employer must conduct a bona fide recruitment for the position offered before filing the PERM labor certification with DOL. For example, if an employer began good-faith recruitment in January 2005, the employer will be eligible to file a labor certification application under the new PERM regulations in March 2005. The DOL will permit employers to file their labor certification applications electronically, and applications will no longer have to undergo initial processing at the local state workforce agency, i.e., Employment Development Department (EDD).

Attorney Elsie Hui Arias of Reeves & Associates commented, “The PERM labor certification is welcome news for employers seeking to help their immigrant workers attain permanent residency in the United States on an expedited basis.” Employers or immigrant workers interested in the PERM labor certification program should consult a qualified immigration law firm that is knowledgeable and experienced in employment-based immigration and the labor certification process.