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Can You Relate? Understanding the ‘Invalidating Relationship’ for PERM Cases

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By Pam Prather

By Pam Prather

In the area of Employment-Based immigration, both the PERM and the I-140 Immigrant Petition are based – among other things – upon a “bona fide job opportunity”. Many factors go into the analysis of this particular piece of the pie. One is whether the beneficiary is related to the petitioner.

Question 9 of the PERM ETA-9089 asks “Is the employer a closely held corporation, partnership of sole proprietorship in which the alien has an ownership interest, or is there a familial relationship between the owners, stockholders, partners, corporate officers, incorporators and the alien?”

The point is whether the relationship influences the petitioner – in advertising for the position, reviewing resumes, and/or interviewing applicants – to the detriment of the U.S. worker. Although the relationship itself would not normally be the sole factor in the denial of a petition, it definitely has bearing. The DOL and the USCIS may determine that because of the relationship, the job was notactually available to any other candidate, and therefore not bona fide.

It is concerning that “familial” is defined quite broadly in some DOL and USCIS decisions. In Matter of Summart 374.00-INA-93, BALCA upheld a denial stating that “A relationship invalidating a bona fide job offer may arise where the beneficiary is related to the petitioner by ‘blood’ or it may ‘be financial, by marriage or through friendship’”. (emphasis added)

The term “friendship”, rather than clarifying, seems to open up another can of worms. What definition is the government using?

Mirriam Webster defines friendship as:

1. a : one attached to another by affection or esteemb : acquaintance

2. a : one that is not hostile b : one that is of the same nation, party, or group

3. one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)

4. a favored companion

For both employers and employees, then, it is extremely important to disclose any prior relationship between owner/operator/executive and the beneficiary of the employment-based immigration petition.The difference between approval and denial could theoretically depend on a chance encounter at an industry networking function, or finding each other at your children’s softball game.

A competent immigration lawyer should be consulted to ensure that the job opportunity is properly made available toU.S. workers, and the bona fide nature of the position is made clear to the federal agencies involved.