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Bloggings On PERM Labor Certification

by Joel Stewart

PERM: Lawyers and Para-Legals

In case you haven't noticed, the O*Net has been readjusted and the position of paralegal has been down-graded to a Job Zone 3, requiring only two years of preparation time (including education, training and experience) and only a two-year associate degree.

As such, it will be difficult to obtain H-1B visas for specialty occupations for paralegals, as these positions no longer require a bachelor's degree.

It will also be difficult to obtain 2nd preference employment based immigrant status for paralegals, since the second preference normally requires a bachelor's degree plus five years of progressive experience or a master's degree.

I reviewed this issue recently for a colleague, who wants to employ a foreign attorney, and advised to consider several options.

(1) A foreign attorney, who is not licensed in the US, may occupy the position of paralegal, of course, but would not be able to obtain an H-1B visA or qualify for 2nd preference.

(2) Alternatively, a foreign attorney may qualify as a lawyer specializing in foreign law matters. The foreign attorney would presumably work under the direction of a US attorney and would advise the US attorney. The foreign attorney would not have offer representation to clients other than attorneys, as this would require a license to practice law in the US.

In some states, foreign attorneys may be permitted to give advice to clients on foreign matters if they are specially certified or licensed. Each state has its own interpretation and prohibitions. In Florida, for example, a foreign attorney may apply to the Florida bar for license as a Certified Foreign Legal Consultant. As such, the foreign attorney would be examined on ethics and character but would not sit for an exam in Florida law. A foreign attorney who has obtained certification in Florida could then offer services to the public or to other attorneys.

Without certification status, the foreign attorney could still work as a foreign law adviser to an attorney, but would only be able to provide advice to the US attorney and not to the public.

According to the International Law Society as of 2006 there were more than 1,100,000 licensed attorneys in the US. The site also states that there were 28 states that permitted foreign law specialists to practice foreign law. (,

These states permits foreign lawyer restricted legal practice within that state on the basis of their home country qualifications and experience. Licenses were available in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvannia, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

The American Bar Assocation has produced a comparison table to explain the licensing requirements in each US jurisdiction.

Foreign lawyers, who have completed a foreign law degree comparable to a Bachelor's Degree in law or higher, should be able to obtain H-1B visas for temporary employment or 2nd preference status, if they have a Master's Degree or a Bachelor's Degree and five years progressive experience (the minimum for consideration as 2nd preference employment based immigrants).

Under PERM, an issue that might arise is whether an employer may require experience that could not have been gained in the United States. Therefore, the minimum requirements should be carefully drafted to reflect the fact that the principal job requirements, or a set of alternate job experience requirements, would be available to qualify US workers who have not lived and studied abroad.

The new SC job data, available on the O*Net, essentially applies to US graduates with two year paralegal degrees who plan to work under the SOC code 23.2011.00 "Paralegals and Legal Assistant" and not to foreign lawyers who will work as foreign law specialists in the U.S. under the SOC code 23-1011.00 "Lawyers."