How did I obtain labor certification in the US

Read Previous: How did I obtain a work visa for the US?

ISF had offices in North and South America. There was a shortage of skilled workers in my area of expertise in the US in early 2000. I was offered a good salary and the prospect of establishing permanently in the USA. However, there was a caveat: I could only work for the employer that brought me to the US; quitting the job would equate deportation; some sort of golden cage.

Tomo Solano, CEO of ISF, let me choose between two cities in Florida: Jacksonville and Tallahassee. I chose the latter simply because Florida State University had a graduate program I was interested in. In December 2001, I applied to the M.F.A. in Creative Writing at FSU (at that point I had a significant trajectory as a fiction writer). However, I could not complete my application until I chose a second option for graduate studies. It was December 31st, 2001. I was alone in the city, and went to the movies to celebrate new year's eve. I watched a late screening of A Beatiful Mind. When I went back home, I chose mathematics as my second choice for graduate studies.

On March 28, 2002,I received a letter from the FSU Department of English informing me that I had been rejected from the creative writing program, but in May 6, I received a letter of acceptance from the FSU Department of Mathematics. I started graduate studies in Biomedical Mathematics at Florida State University in 2002, doing part-time PhD studies and full time job. That was hard.

Meanwhile, at work... I obtained a clearance form the Department of Labor called Labor Certification, that acknowledged that I was not taking the job from an American, and therefore I could become a permanent resident. This started in September of 2003 with a bona fide recruitment process and ended in April 2004 with a Labor Certification.

Soon after I started the immigration process, the problems began due to frequent legislation changes. September 11, 2001 changed many things in America. We took then the "fast-track" option known as RIR (Reduction In Recruitment), meaning there were no Americans available and my employer wanted to secure my position as soon as possible. The RIR process never lived to its promise of fast track.

Two years later I received the disheartening news from the Department of Labor: all pending processes would be dumped into two processing centers, understaffed and underbudgeted. 350.000 cases had to be reviewed by 20 people in a period of two years. These centers were known as the Backlog Processing Centers. Then I started a new process under the newly created PERM process. PERM promised labor certifications within two months of filing. This time it worked more or less as expected. It took 4 months to obtain the labor certification, but then came the third shocking change:

In October 2005 the Department of State published the average filing year for the immigration applications that were being reviewed at that moment: 1998 for Chinese, Mexican, Indian and Philippine professionals, 2001 for the rest of the world. This was known as retrogression dates. According to this, even though I had already waited three years, I would have to wait four more years.

At that point, after waiting for 4 years, and realizing that the light at the end of the tunnel was moving further away, I felt deeply discouraged by the increasing difficulty to gain permanent resident status in the US. For that reason I initiated the immigration process into Canada, which moved in a predictable and fast way. On May 3, 2007, Canada requested the last step to grant residency: I had submit my medical report, but it happened at the same time that there was some progress in my immigration process to the US.

Keep reading: How did I obtain my Green Card?