What Is Labor Certification?

Labor Certification

Labor certification is a process required by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) for employers who wish to hire foreign workers on a permanent basis. The goal of labor certification is to make sure that hiring workers from other countries does not negatively impact the jobs, pay, and work situations of American employees.

Labor Certification vs. Work Visa

Labor certification and work visa are often used interchangeably. However, there are stark differences between the two. 

Labor certification is a process that an employer must undergo to prove that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill a specific position. 

A work visa, on the other hand, allows the foreign worker to legally work and live in the United States. In some cases, an employer files a petition with U.S. immigration to sponsor a foreign employee for a work visa. 

However, not all employers can obtain labor certification. Employers must first provide proof that there are insufficient qualified U.S. workers available and willing to accept the job at the prevailing wage for that position in that specific industry before they can be granted labor certification and the opportunity to sponsor an employee for a work visa. 

How can HR get labor certification for their company?

File a Prevailing Wage Request

The first step in obtaining labor certification is to file a prevailing wage request with the DOL. The prevailing wage is the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in the same occupation and industry. 

Recruit a Qualified Worker

Once the prevailing wage is determined, HR must conduct an effort to recruit a qualified U.S. worker for the open position. This involves advertising the job opportunity in various media outlets and screening possible candidates. 

To proceed with the labor certification process, the employer must be able to demonstrate that they have made a genuine attempt (and failed) to find a qualified U.S. worker to fill the role.

File ETA Form 9089

If no qualified U.S. workers are found during the recruitment process, HR can proceed with filing ETA Form 9089 or the Application for Permanent Employment Certification. This form requires detailed information about the open position, foreign worker's qualifications, and the recruitment efforts undertaken by the employer.


Once ETA Form 9089 is filed, the DOL will review the application to ensure that all requirements have been met. 

If the application is approved, the DOL will issue a labor certification. This allows the employer to proceed with sponsoring the foreign worker for a work visa. If the application is denied, the employer may choose to appeal the decision or start the process again with a new job opportunity.