Employers often commonly confuse the LCA (Labor Condition Application) with the LC (PERM Labor Certification). So, what is the difference between an LCA and a LC?  

→  The Labor Certification (or LC) is a process related to an application for permanent residency (aka a “green card”).  This is a lengthy, complex process in which an employer must follow a process to prove to the Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no available willing and qualified U.S. workers for the given job.  This process can take up to six months to prepare and up to two years to be adjudicated by DOL.

→ The Labor Condition Application (or LCA), on the other hand, is a form related to an H-1B petition filed by an employer in order to hire a professional worker.  The form is the vehicle by which an employer attests that it will protect wages by paying the H-1B employee a stated amount, protect working conditions, by not making the H-1B worker under conditions different from his/her U.S. counterparts and not displace U.S. workers.  This process takes a few days to prepare, must be posted at the employer’s location and worksite for 10 business days and typically takes seven days to be adjudicated by DOL.

Although the acronyms are similar (particularly since the Labor Certification is also an “Application”), the processes serve very different purposes.  A certified LCA is a precondition to the filing of any H-1B petition.  This document contains information about the location of employment, period of employment, job title, offered wage, prevailing wage, and the employer’s attestations.  Please keep in mind that the certification or approval of an LCA alone does not authorize a foreign national to commence employment.  Although a necessary form, only the H-1B petition itself can confer work authorization.

The LC is an optional process which is prepared only when an employer chooses to sponsor a foreign national employee for permanent residency (a “green card”).  Since it can be a lengthy and expensive process, employers should consult qualified immigration counsel about the process, the requirements and obligations involved, before moving forward with it.  Note that in many cases an employee may “need” an employer to file an LC on their behalf so that the employee can remain in the U.S. and continue to work beyond his/her normal six year limit of H-1B status.

It is important that the employer understands the differences between these two processes and the promises and obligations set forth in each prior to agreeing to process either or sign any forms.