Labor certification is a type of work authorization which allows an employer to hire a non-US worker for a specific job. Labor certification can be permanent or an on a temporary long-term basis. In most cases, employers are the ones who apply for labor certification on behalf of foreign workers and they generally do so because they cannot find minimally qualified US workers willing to do the job at the standard rate. In fact, in order to secure labor certification, employers are required by law to prove that they cannot find US employees willing to take on the job.
Labor certification can involve long-term temporary work authoritarian, such as those secured by H-1B visas, L-1 visas, TN, and others. It can also involve an employer sponsoring a worker for a green card so that the worker can remain permanently in the US. This is much rarer, however, as the process can take years.
To begin the labor certification process, the employer must first prove that there are no US workers who are minimally qualified for the job who are willing to perform the job at the going rate. This will generally involve recruitment efforts by the employer to show that no workers can be found. The employer must also create a good job description and a description of the wage and benefits. This description and wages must meet regulations and guidelines for the job. That is, the employer cannot tailor a job description intended for foreign workers only or offer a lower than standard wage that US workers would not wish to work for. As well, the employer also needs make sure that the hiring of non-US workers will not adversely affect US workers working in the same capacity negatively. That is, if the employer’s attempts to get labor certification would lower standard rates for the job or would affect working conditions for US workers in any way, the employer is unlikely to secure labor certification.
The employer must submit all this information to the DOL (Department of Labor) along with an application for labor certification to the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The ETA will determine whether there are adequate US workers to do the job described. If the evidence suggests that there is not, the DOL will share this conclusion with the USCIS and the USCIS will then be able to offer the employer authorization to hire non-US workers.
The DOL and USCIS have a permanent labor certification program (PERM) which helps to make the labor certification process a little faster. While the process used to take many months, it can now be completed faster as the process is electronic and streamlined.