Employment-Based Immigration,  PERM,  Visa Bulletin

Specialty Chefs and Green Cards

Did you know that if you are restaurant that specializes in a certain type of cuisine and need specialty chefs who have at least two years of chef experience in that cuisine, you may be able to petition for that  chef to immigrate to the U.S. to get his or her green card (AKA lawful permanent residency)?

A common issue I have heard among restaurant owners is the inability to find qualified chefs who have the experience and knowledge to cook the restaurant’s specialty dishes.  However, there is a solution to this ongoing problem.  There is a caveat to this, which is the understanding that it is not a process that will take a couple of months, but rather will take more than a year.  However, this does provide a more permanent solution to this issue that so many restaurant owners face.  Factors that play into how long it takes are the Department of Labor’s processing time, whether there is a visa immediately available for the chef to immigrate here, the processing times of USCIS, and the U.S. consulate’s interview schedule abroad if the chef will be going through the U.S. consulate for the immigrant visa interview.    

The immigrant visa category that a specialty chef would fall under is the EB-3 skilled worker category. This category requires at least 2 years of experience in the field, and that it is an industry standard that this amount of experience is required. 

The following is a general overview of the process and the requirements:  

  1. Draft a job description and submit a prevailing wage determination (PWD) to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Based on the job description and location of where the chef will work, the DOL will tell you how much the chef must be paid per year. This takes about 3 months to get back. 
  2. Once you have the PWD, you can begin recruiting.  There are 3 requirements for recruitment for this category.
    1. The employer must do an internal posting notice for at least 10 business days notifying its employees that the employer is seeking to hire a foreign national, and if any employees have referrals to the employer for this job, they can refer potential qualified U.S. workers.
    2. The employer must place an ad in two Sunday editions of a local newspaper of wide circulation in the area of intended employment.  The ads must be in two consecutive Sunday editions of that newspaper.
    3. The employer must place a job order with the state’s State Workforce Agency (SWA).  For example, I live in Utah, so that would be the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
  3. The employer must interview all applicants who are authorized to work in the U.S. and who have the qualifications to fill the position.  If the applicant is interviewed, but not hired, the employer must have a legitimate reason for not hiring. 
  4. After the requisite amount of time has passed, the employer can submit the PERM application to the DOL, which states that they engaged in the required recruitment, they could not find a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position, and they wish to hire the foreign national who does have the requisite experience. 
  5. The DOL will then either certify the PERM application, which will allow the employer to move on to the immigration part of the process, or they could do an audit and ask for more evidence before they decide to certify the PERM application.
  6. Once the PERM is certified, the restaurant can file a petition for the worker with USCIS.  This petition tells USCIS that the restaurant wishes to petition for the specialty chef to get a green card and work for the restaurant.

Depending on the country that the chef is from, the visa bulletin will tell you approximately how long it will take for the chef to come to the U.S.  To find out how to read the visa bulletin, you can read my blog post here. Below is the final action date June 2019 visa bulletin for employment-based categories. You would look at the row that says “3rd” to see where they are.

All Chargeability 
Areas Except
Those Listed
1st 22APR18 22FEB17 22APR18 01JAN15 22APR18 22APR18 22APR18
2nd C 01AUG16 C 19APR09 C C C
3rd C 15SEP15 C 01JUL09 C 01NOV18 C
Other Workers C 01SEP07 C 01JUL09 C 01NOV18 C
4th C C 22MAR16 C 01OCT18 C C
Certain Religious Workers C C 22MAR16 C 01OCT18 C C
5th Non-Regional Center
(C5 and T5)
C 01OCT14 C C C C 01OCT16
5th Regional Center
(I5 and R5)
C 01OCT14 C C C C 01OCT16

There are a lot of steps that go into this process, as well as important time sensitive deadlines.  For many of my restaurant clients, it is well worth the wait because this is a permanent solution to resolve the ongoing issue of many restaurant owners not being able to find qualified U.S. workers for specialty chef positions.

Please contact me if you are considering this option so we can work toward the goal of getting you the right chefs that will allow your restaurant to continue to thrive.