Labor certification (not to be confused with the Labor Condition Application - LCA) is a United States of
America immigration process step. Its stated goal is to "protect U.S. workers and the U.S. labor market by
ensuring that foreign workers seeking immigrant visa classifications are not displacing equally qualified U.S. workers".
There are several options available to US employers who wish to hire foreign, non-immigrant workers on a temporary but long-term basis: H-1B visas, L-1 visas, TN status and other options. These temporary options are often sufficient to meet the needs of employer and employee. When a US employer wishes to hire the services of the foreign worker on a permanent basis, however, a complex sponsorship process for the green card begins, a process that can take years. Generally (although not always) the first step in that process is labor certification. Labor certification is a process of proving that there are no qualified US workers for the position being offered. If there are qualified US workers - in fact, even generally speaking if there are even minimally qualified US workers - then the foreign worker cannot be offered the position on a permanent basis. This does not necessarily mean that the foreign worker will be immediately replaced by a qualified US worker, though. The foreign worker can still serve out the remainder of their existing US temporary visa, and may well be able to re-apply for labor certification and be approved. But it does create a substantial inconvenience for the US employer who wishes to hire a foreign worker, which does provide some protection to US workers, although the process is controversial.