Work Visas

Labor Certification

To understand how US work visas work and how to hire a foreign worker, you need a basic understanding of labor certification.

There are a number of circumstances in which an American employer may want to employ a foreign worker in the U.S.

Labor Certification

In some cases, executives and managers of multinational corporations need foreign workers to temporary relocate to the U.S. for a period of three years or more. In other instances, a company may need to bring in a foreign employee to temporarily perform a highly specialized job function.

The federal government provides several mechanisms (e.g. L1 & H1B visas) for foreign workers to reside in the U.S. for a limited duration. But what happens when a business wants to hire foreign workers to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis? That's a stickier situation requiring a more complicated entry and approval process. One of the first steps in the process is called "labor certification" - and here's what it involves:

What is Labor Certification?

Labor certification is the initial step in a long process of green card sponsorship for foreign workers. This process is designed to prove that there are no qualified American workers to fill a vacant position(s). Given the current political and social climate, the odds are stacked against employers - even U.S. workers who barely meet qualification standards can be enough to sink the process.

Labor certification and visa approvals involve at least three different federal agencies. The labor certification process falls under the Department of Labor (DOL). If the process is successful, the individual can apply for a visa through the U.S. Citizienship & Immigration Service (USCIS). If approved, the individual must then work through the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to receive a visa number prior to entry.

The Labor Certification Process

The good news for employees is that labor certification is entirely the employer's responsibility. In general, the certification process requires the employer to verify the need to hire foreign workers and to demonstrate compliance with relevant DOL guidelines.

In 2005, the process was streamlined and automated with the launch of PERM (Program Electronic Review Management), an electronic labor certification system. This system has the potential to reduce processing time to less than 60 days. But even though the system is capable of expedited processing, legislative quotas may not permit the process to be performed in a 60-day timeframe.

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