What is the Prevailing Wage According to The United States Department of Labor?
“The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment”.
How to Access The Wage Rate for a Particular Job?
- Effective January 4, 2010, employers can obtain this wage rate by submitting a request to the National Prevailing Wage and Center (NPWC)
- By accessing other legitimate sources of information such as the Online Wage Library, available for use in some programs”
- Online Wage Library or Foreign Labor Certification Data Center are used interchangeably
What is the Minimum Wage Requirement for All Employment-based Visas?
- The requirement to pay prevailing wages as a minimum is true of most employment-based visa programs involving the Department of Labor
- In addition, the H1B, H1B1, and E3 programs require the employer to pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid by the employer to workers with similar skills and qualifications, whichever is higher
How to Find Prevailing Wages for H-1B LCA?
Navigate to the website Foreign Labor Certification Data Center and select the search wizard from the menu on the left. You can also select Quick Search if you want to directly go to search. The wizard lets you select a state and let you go step by step. See the Screenshot below:
Select the options for the Source of the Database for Prevailing wage. You will need to select the area where you will plan to work or your job location and then the last option is to select the job title of the position. You can also choose to use the keyword option to enter if you cannot find the job title. See the Screenshot below:
Once you select the above options and hit search, you will get wage information like below. In this case, we have chosen Computer and Research Scientists.
In Order to Get Accurate Information About Wage Levels You Need To Have The Following Information:
- You need to ask your employer the wage level that is being filed for your position
- It is critical for your H1B position and approval with DOL and USCIS
- Also, you need to ask the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code that they plan to use for the position
What are the Different Wage Levels?
There are 4 H1B Wage levels that are defined by DOL based on the OES program
- H1B Wage Level 1
- These wage levels are assigned for entry-level H1B workers with a basic understanding of the job
- These employees perform routine tasks that require limited if any, the exercise of judgment
- The tasks provide experience and familiarization with the employer’s methods, practices, and programs
- The employees may perform higher-level work for training and developmental purpose
- These employees work under close supervision and receive specific instructions on required tasks and results expected
- Their work is closely monitored and reviewed for accuracy Statements that the job offer is for a research fellow, a worker in training, or an internship are indicators that a Level I wage should be considered
2. H1B Wage Level 2:
- These wage levels are assigned for qualified workers with education, experience and who can perform moderate tasks with limited judgment
- An indicator that the job request warrants a wage determination at Level II would be a requirement for years of education and/or experience that are generally required as described in the O*NET Job Zones.
3. H1B Wage Level 3 :
- This wage level assigned to job offers for experienced employees who have a sound understanding of the occupation
- They have attained, either through education or experience, special skills or knowledge
- They perform tasks that require exercising judgment and may coordinate the activities for other staff
- They may have supervisory authority for those staff
- A requirement for years of experience or educational degrees that are at higher ranges indicated in the O*NET Job Zones would be an indicator that Level 3 wage should be considered
4. H1B Wage Level 4:
- This wage level assigned to the most expert level of workers, who can perform complex tasks and can exercise independent judgment, conduct evaluation, and apply standard procedures and techniques
- These employees use advanced skills and diversified knowledge to solve unusual and complex problems
- These employees only receive technical guidance and their work is only reviewed for application of sound judgment
- They generally have management and/or supervisory responsibilities
What is the O*NET System?
- Developed by the Department of Labor, the O*NET system provides the general public information on skills, abilities, knowledge, tasks, work activities, and the specific vocational preparation levels associated with occupations
- The O*NET information can be found at http://online.onetcenter.org.
- Wage data from the OES survey and occupational information in O*NET are both classified by the SOC, reducing the need to use crosswalks to connect wages to occupational requirements
What is the Process for Determining Wage Level Determined?
- National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center (NPWHC) shall use O*NET Information to identify tasks, work activities, knowledge, and skills generally required for performance in an occupation
- A comparison between the particulars of the employer’s job offer to the requirements for similar(O*NET) occupations shall be used to determine the appropriate wage level
- It is important, therefore, that the job description included in an employer’s request for a prevailing wage determination include sufficient information to determine the complexity of the job duties, the level of judgments, the amount and level of supervision, and the level of understanding required to perform job duties
- NPWHC may need to contact employers for additional information to obtain this information if needed
The Original Policy memo can be found here
How to Find Your Wage Level from H1B LCA?
- Labor Condition Application has all the information related to your H1B position
- You can ask your employer to share the copy of the LCA
- Your employer is supposed to share you a copy of your LCA
- To see the wage level info, you need to look at Section G, which tell the information of the Wage Level, Wage offered in that area and the Wage database year
Why It Is Important to Specify “Area of Intended Employment”?
The definition of “area of intended employment” at 20 CFR 656.3 states: “Area of intended employment means the area within normal commuting distance of the place (address) of intended employment.”.
- It is important for an employer to define the intended place of employment with as much geographic specificity as possible
- It should be a physical location and not a P.O. box
What if My Employer is Not willing to Pay as per H1B LCA Prevailing Wage?
- Your employer is mandated to pay as per the wages and salary listed on the LCA
- You can raise a complaint with the Department of Labor by filling out WH4 Form
- The first step is to ask the employer to pay back wages or pay as per LCA
- If it is not effective, then you can raise a request with the WH4 form on the DOL website
What is the Relationship Between Prevailing Wages and USCIS Approval?
- H1B worker should be paid the prevailing wage
- If there is any discrepancy, USCIS can report the wage violation for the employer to DOL
- They can also ask the employer why the H-1B employee is not paid on par with others
Prevailing Wage Determination is a complex topic. You can make a guestimate about your wage level, by using different online tools. However, consulting an attorney might give you better idea.