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Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) for PERM Labor Certification

The Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) system plays a critical part in PERM Labor Certification and is the basis by which DOL may challenge an excessive job requirement by the employer in PERM Labor Certification filings. It is critical to gain a full understanding of the PERM certification in order to understand PERM Labor Certification filing. 

What Is Specific Vocational Preparation?

SVP is a job grouping system used by the U.S. Department of Labor in order to regulate and clarify occupational requirements. The Specific Vocational Preparation is found in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. Over time, the Department of Labor has implemented and revised federal regulations in The Specific Vocational Preparation in order to direct the employment system within the United States. 

SVP is a detailed classification system that structures the job requirements for all fields of employment. Jobs are grouped according to the amount of time that is necessary to achieve adequate performance within a position. The Specific Vocational Preparation levels were designed to consider education level, work experience, training, and other specific skills that are obtained with the intent of gaining employment.

The system takes into account the time that is required to learn techniques, acquire information, and develop specific job skills. Occupations are categorized according to five “job zones” that were formulated based on the level of required experience. Each zone contains the minimum and maximum amount of experience that is allowed for the listed occupations.

The experience level is determined by combing the amount of time that was accumulated while obtaining an education, specific work related experience, and various job training. In order to meet the regulations, the advertised job requirements must fall somewhere in between the minimum and maximum range allotted by SVP. Specific information about the job zones will be provided at the end of this blog. 

The intent of the SVP is to accurately classify jobs in order to provide useful occupational information that assists employers during the recruitment process. The Specific Vocational Preparation regulations provide structure within the hiring process that protects both the employers as well as the job seekers.

How Specific Vocational Preparation Impacts Labor Certification

In a PERM Labor Certification filing, a job may only exceed The Specific Vocational Preparation levels if the employer adequately proves that the additional requirements are a necessity for that specific job. The federal regulations set both restrictions and standards that assure that the job market is effective and balanced throughout all of the various recruitment stages. 

The Specific Vocational Preparation impacts the PERM Labor Certification process because it determines the job qualifications for all occupations. When an employer applies for PERM Labor Certification, the accuracy of the hiring process, including the job advertisement, is critical. The recruitment process for PERM Labor must determine and document that there are no U.S. citizens who are “able, willing, qualified, or available” to fill the position.

A Labor Certification will not be certified if there is a U.S. citizen who meets the minimum job requirements. The strict standards for employing a foreign national require employers to follow The Specific Vocational Preparation levels when determining job requirements. If a job is advertised incorrectly, the application for PERM Labor Certification will be denied unless the employer can prove that the additional requirement beyond The Specific Vocational Preparation system were the result of a business necessity. 

Various Specific Vocational Preparation Levels

In order to understand The Specific Vocational Preparation system we have to know few pieces to the puzzle. First, we need to know the various SVP levels and what they mean. Also, it is important to understand that the term “seven Specific Vocational Preparation years” has a different meaning than “SVP 7” as you will see below. 

The U.S. Department of Labor (1991) Dictionary of Occupational Titles (Rev. 4th ed.) provides the following:

  • SVP 1 – occupation that requires short demonstration only
  • SVP 2 – beyond short demonstration, up to and including 1 month
  • SVP 3 – occupation that requires over 1 month, up to and including 3 months
  • SVP 4 – over 3 months, up to and including 6 months
  • SVP 6 – occupation that requires over 1 year, up to and including 2 SVP years
  • SVP 7 – job that requires over 2 years, up to and including 4 years
  • SVP 8 – occupation that requires 4 years, up to and including 10 years
  • SVP 9 – occupation that requires over 10 years 

Secondly we need to know the correlation between education and SVP years. DOL uses the following correlation: 

  • Associate degree – 2 SVP years 
  • Bachelor degree – 2 SVP years 
  • Master degree – 4 SVP years 
  • Doctorate – 7 SVP years 
  • One year of work experience – 1 SVP year 

FAs an example, if the employer in a PERM Labor Certification application has a requirement that a “Computer Programmer” must have a bachelor’s degree and five years of work-related experience, the Specific Vocational Preparation level that the employer is requiring is SVP 8. You would add the bachelor’s degree equivalency of 2 Specific Vocational Preparation years to the 5 year of work experience leading to total of 7 SVP years.

According to the first SVP chart above, “SVP 8” is an occupation that requires “4 years up to and including 10 Specific Vocational Preparation years.” As such the employer requirement of 7 SVP years (bachelor’s degree plus five) falls between the minimum of “4 years up to and including 10 years” and as such it is an SVP 8 job requirement. 

For every profession, DOL publishes SVP years maximum. According to the Department of Labor publications, a Computer Programmer must not have higher than SVP 7. As such in this example, the employer requirement of Bachelor plus five years of experience leading to SVP 8 is higher than DOL’s requirement of SVP 7. Therefore, the PERM application in the above example is susceptible to challenge by DOL and possible denial of the PERM application, unless the employer can show a “business necessity” for the additional requirement exceeding SVP 7. 

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