Starting the PERM Green Card Process

The green-card process involves three separate steps: (1) obtaining an approved ETA-9089 application from the U.S. Department of Labor under the new PERM system; (2) obtaining approval of an I-140 petition; and (3) obtaining approval of the alien's I-485 application (as well as I-485 applications for any dependents).

Each step serves a different purpose. Step 1 is designed to establish that the employer has recently recruited for the position on which the alien's green card is being based and has been unable to find a qualified U.S. worker. It also stablishes that the employer is offering the job at the required prevailing wage.

Step 2 establishes that the alien is qualified for the job being offered under one of the employment-based immigrant visa categories (EB-3 and EB-2 being the most common ones) and that the employer has the ability to pay the alien's salary. Finally, step 3 reviews the personal health, criminal history, immigration history, and other background information pertaining to each of the alien green card applicants. Its purpose is to make sure the individual alien meets all legal requirements to obtain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.

Steps 1 and 2 are filed by the employer. Step 3 is filed by the alien and by any of his qualifying dependents. In terms of processing, steps 2 and 3 can be filed concurrently with the USCIS provided that an immigrant visa is available at that time to the alien under our visa quota system which restricts the number of employment-based visas given out each federal fiscal year. The visa availability changes each month and is reported in the Department of State's Visa Bulletin. See:

In terms of procedure, PERM requires a period of recruitment prior to filing of the application. The period can be as long as six months or as short as three months. For professional positions, PERM requires certain recruitment actions to be taken and documented within that time. These include: posting of the position for 10 consecutive business days on the employer's employee bulletin board and also in "any and all in-house media, whether electronic or printed, in accordance with the normal procedures used for the recruitment of similar positions in the employer's organization"; placing a job order for 30 days; placing an ad for the job on two different Sundays in the major newspaper serving the area; and, taking at least three of the following additional recruitment steps (only one of which may consist solely of activity that takes place within 30 days of the filing of the PERM application):

  • Posting the job on the employer's web site;
  • Advertising the job on a job search web site other than the employer's. (This can include a web site posting obtained in conjunction with a Sunday newspaper ad);
  • On-campus recruiting;
  • Advertising the job with trade or professional organizations;
  • Using private employment firms or placement agencies;
  • Employee referral program with incentives;
  • Campus placement offices;
  • Advertising the job in local and ethnic newspapers; and
  • Advertising the job on radio or TV.

Whatever the three steps chosen, the employer must carefully document each step according to DOL requirements. This means documenting the recruitment activity as it occurs - which is something most employers would not normally do.

PERM also requires a prevailing wage determination for the job offered.

Once the recruitment has been completed and the ETA-9089 application has been filed under PERM, the application is supposed to be adjudicated within about three months. In our experience, PERM applications tend to be approved faster than that, provided they are not audited by DOL. Once the application is approved, then the employer can move on to the next step - Step 2 - of filing the I-140 petition. As mentioned above, I-485 applications can also be concurrently filed for the alien and qualifying dependents if an employment-based visa is then currently available to the alien.


Donald C. Slowik

Slowik and Robinson, LLC

250 East Broad Street, Suite 250, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Tel: 614-884-4800, Fax: 614-884-4801