Green Card for Teachers

By Reuben S. Seguritan

October 29, 2014

Employment of teachers is expected to grow in the near future. This positive outlook includes teachers at all learning levels – pre-school, kindergarten, elementary and high school – but the opportunities are greater in certain fields, such as math, science and special education, and in some geographic areas.

In the United States, there is a history of recruitment of foreign teachers, particularly from countries such as the Philippines, India and Russia, in order to meet the demand from the increased student enrolment and the need to replace aging teachers.

Foreign teachers who have a job offer from a U.S. employer, usually a school district, individual school or state education agency, and who wish to work in the United States on a permanent basis must obtain an employment-based green card under the EB-2 preference category or the EB-3. The November 2014 cut-off date for EB-3 (worldwide) is June 1, 2012 while EB-2 is current for all countries except China and India.

The process of obtaining a green card involves three broad steps, which begins with the labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. The next two steps involve the filing of the immigrant worker petition by the employer and the teacher’s adjustment of status (if the teacher is in the U.S.) or immigrant visa application (if abroad).

Before the U.S. employer can file an immigrant petition for the teacher, it must submit an application for labor certification using ETA Form 9089. The DOL’s program is called Program Electronic Review Management (PERM).

The procedure begins with the employer obtaining a prevailing wage determination prior to filing the PERM case. The prevailing wage is determined according to the job offered, the geographic region, the skill level or “job zone” assigned to the position, which in turn depends on the required education, experience and level of supervision for the position offered. The employer must offer at least 100% of the prevailing wage rate.

Next, the employer must conduct a recruitment by placing a job order with the State Workforce Agency in the area of intended employment for at least 30 days. The required recruitment steps include two Sunday newspaper ads and three additional recruitment methods and notices at the workplace.

U.S. worker applicants who meet the minimum requirements for the position must be interviewed. The employer must document its reasons for rejecting minimally qualified U.S. workers and have lawful, job-related reasons for their rejection. If the employer is unable to recruit U.S. workers after testing the labor market, it can proceed to file the labor certification application.

The DOL will either certify, deny or audit the application. If the employer is chosen for an audit, it must respond to the audit letter and submit the required documentation. Even after responding to the audit letter, however, the employer may be directed to conduct a DOL-supervised recruitment.

As one can imagine, the labor certification process is cumbersome and quite costly. Although teachers seeking classification under the employment-based third preference (EB-3) category are required to go through this process, teachers who can qualify under the second preference (EB-2) category can ask for a waiver of the labor certification requirement if they can show that it is in the national interest of the United States.

Once the ETA Form 9089 is certified, within 180 days the employer must file the Form I-140 immigrant petition for the teacher. After approval of the I-140, when the priority date – usually the date the PERM case was filed – is reached and a visa number becomes available, the teacher can file the adjustment of status application or the immigrant visa application with the U.S. consulate overseas.