International employees interested in obtaining permanent residency based on a permanent job offer will ask their employer to sponsor them for a labor certification. For the majority of employees, this is the first step in the permanent residency process. The employer is required to file a Labor Certification Application with the U.S. Department of Labor on behalf of the employee.
A labor certification is a document issued by the Department of Labor certifying that there is an insufficient number of U.S. workers in the geographic area of employment who are able, willing, qualified and available to perform the job in question, and that the employment of an international worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Employers must take specific recruitment steps to "test" the labor market and identify U.S. workers who may be interested in the job. There is a "standard" labor certification procedure and a "special handling" procedure that applies to college and university teachers.
PERM is an attestation-based computer system that approves or denies labor certifications depending on the employer’s responses to questions on the labor certification application, which is filed electronically. Although employers are still required to obtain documentation under the PERM procedure, only the labor certification application (Form 9089) is actually filed with the DOL. The documentation required by the DOL to verify that a recruitment process was actually conducted by the employer is maintained in the employee’s labor certification file for a period of 5 years. The labor certification application is subject to audit, either randomly or pursuant to certain factors that the DOL has identified.