The employment based permanent residency or “green card” process is a three step process. The first step in this process is called Labor Certification. As of March 28, 2005 all Labor Certification applications are filed through the online PERM process. The Since April of 2007, immigration attorneys have reported a significant increase in the number of PERM audit notifications issued by the US Department of Labor (DOL).
PERM audits are either randomly issued or are triggered by mechanisms installed in the PERM program by the DOL. In order for an employer to file a successful labor certification application, a U.S. employer must establish that no U.S. workers (either U.S. citizens or permanent residents) were available for the position. The DOL requires U.S. employers to conduct a recruitment campaign prior to filing a PERM based labor certification application. If the DOL deems the U.S. employer’s job requirements to be excessively restrictive to U.S. workers, an audit request is issued. In most instances, an audit will be triggered if an employer’s job requirements do not comply with the Department of Labor’s specific vocational preparation (SVP) guidelines as set forth in the O*NET. For example, if the DOL has set a SVP of “7< 8" for the software engineer position. According to the DOL's SVP guidelines, the maximum vocational preparation for this position is 4 years. The DOL equates a bachelor's degree to 2 years of vocational preparation and a master's degree to 4 years of vocational preparation. Therefore, if an employer's requirements for a software engineer exceed either a bachelors degree in the field and 2 years of experience or a masters degree in the field an 0 years of experience, the requirements would be considered excessive by the DOL.
The majority of the recent PERM audits are a direct result of employer's exceeding the DOL's SVP requirements. Most of these audits require employers to establish "business necessity" for the job requirements exceeding the SVP. In accordance with Matter of Information Industries, 88-INA-92 (BALCA Feb. 9, 1989) and 20 CFR § 656.17(h), "To establish a business necessity, an employer must demonstrate the duties and requirements bear a reasonable relationship to the occupation in the context of the employer's business and are essential to perform the job in a reasonable manner." Therefore, when responding to business necessity related audit requests, the employer must provide the DOL with evidence that proves that the employer's requirements bear a reasonable relationship to the occupation and are essential to perform the job in a reasonable manner. The employer could include evidence of its past hiring practices and describe its operations in detail to justify that the requirements are needed to perform the duties of the position to fulfill the employer's business needs.