Employers in the United States who want to hire foreign workers on H 1b visas should know the prevailing or minimum wage that exists for the job position they are offering. This is because the USCIS and the Department of Labor ensure that the employer shall at least pay prevailing wages to H 1b workers to protect the cheap labor market in the US.
This article will explore the concept of prevailing wages, different wage levels, and prevailing wage determinations by the US employer or the H 1b employee.
What is the prevailing wage?
The USCIS and the Department of Labor (DoL) make sure that the foreign worker is paid equivalent to or more than the US employer to protect from the cheap labor market and also to protect against exploitation of the foreign worker.
For this, they have a determination called prevailing wages, which is the ideal minimum pay for an H 1b job. For example – If an average wage paid to the American worker for the position of data analyst by companies at a particular geographic location and by the specific employer is ‘x’ dollars, then the employer, while hiring the foreign worker, shall ensure that the salary offered should not be less than the ‘x’ dollars.
When the employers file the Labor Condition Application, they have to mention the prevailing wage for the job position they are offering to the employee either from the DoL official data statistics or other independent sources that are authoritative and reliable.
What are the different H 1b wage levels in the United States?
The H 1b wage level exists to ensure that foreign H 1b workers are paid equivalent to or more than the actual wage paid to the US employees. There are four prevailing wage levels for each type of job in the US which are as follows:
- H 1b Wage Level 1
- H 1b Wage Level 2
- H 1b Wage Level 3
- H 1b Wage Level 4
Each level signifies the different level of seniority, pay levels, and skills and knowledge of the h 1b worker. It becomes important for you to know what level of job you are looking for as that will provide you with a good idea of the wage levels that you could expect from your employer.
H 1b Wage Level 1
The level 1 employees are those who have a basic understanding of their occupation. They are employees who do not have a huge past experience working in the field of employment and will learn during the course of employment in the US. The employees will normally be assigned with the routine tasks of the employment that require very limited or zero level of application of your knowledge. The employee may perform tasks that require the higher application of the brain for training purposes.
The employees generally perform the task under the supervision of higher authority. Their work is monitored and reviewed on a regular basis.
H 1b Wage Level 2
Level 2 requires more performance on more complex tasks as compared to Level 1. The h 1b workers who are categorized under 1b Wage Level 2 have a good understanding of their occupation, either through past experience or acquired through education in the field. A good determination that a job is a Level 2 job is that it requires a couple of years of experience or a number of years of study in the field.
H 1b Wage Level 3
The level 3 occupations are a step up to Level 2 jobs and require a deeper and sound understanding of the occupation and task performed at the H 1b job when compared to Level 2. A deeper understanding has been acquired through a number of years of experience, and it is seen that special skills and knowledge are sometimes a requirement of jobs at Level 3, which are being acquired by experience. The occupation includes management-level positions as well. The job role includes the application of the brain, exercising judgment, and also coordinating the work of other staff members.
You may find the following words as an indicator of Level 3 H 1b Jobs:
- Lead. For e.g., the Lead Analyst
- Senior. For e.g., a senior developer
- Head. For e.g., Head programmer.
- Chief. For e.g., Chief Operator.
H 1b Wage Level 4
Level 4 is the highest level in any H 1b job. The individuals who qualify for Level 4 jobs have comprehensive knowledge and sufficient experience in the occupation and have relevant skills to lead other staff. They apply their knowledge and skills to resolve advanced business problems. They can review, analyze and comment on other people’s work and also plan and execute business activities for the betterment of the business.
You can identify Level 4 jobs which include high-level managerial or supervisory responsibilities.
How to determine the prevailing wages?
Employers can use any of the following ways to obtain prevailing wage:
- Submit a request to NPWC to get the prevailing wage.
- Using the data of the surveys conducted by any authoritative source.
- Or by using any other information that is trustworthy and reliable.
- One of the ways through which the employer or the potential h 1b employee can determine the prevailing wage level is by submitting a request to the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) or by searching through online sources such as Online Wage Library. When the employers collect the information on a prevailing wage from the NPWC, they will be given “safe-harbour status.” That means, if in the future there is any doubt about the employer’s compliance with the minimum wage requirement and an investigation is conducted in this regard, the US DoL and the Hour Division will not doubt the validity of the prevailing wage given by the employer as long as they apply it properly, i.e., according to the correct geographic location of the employment, the skill of the h 1b employee and the occupation type.
- You can also take references from the previous occupational employment statistics (OES) data collected by the Department of Labor so that it can be used in the foreign labor certification. You can check the available data here.
- Or, You can also search or find the existing prevailing wage for a particular job position by looking it. You should know the SOC code for the job, job title, and the area name of the employment, and the website will show you the prevailing wage for that specific job title in that location. There is also an option to search for the prevailing wages for the last couple of years by going down to the history option on the website.
- Another great way of finding H 1b prevailing wages for your job position is searching on Flcdatacenter. Go to the search wizard options on the left side of the website and follow the process. You may require correct SOC codes for your job position to have proper results.
Prevailing Wage Process
The employer who wants to get prevailing wage data for h 1b non-immigrant visas should complete Form ETA-9141 (Application for Prevailing Wage Determination) and further submit the completed application to National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC). You can complete and submit the form both electronically and physically; however, it is highly recommended that you should complete the form electronically for faster and more convenient processing. You can submit the form in the FLAG system of the Department of Labor.
How can Herman Legal Group help you?
If you have any other queries related to H 1b prevailing wages or other aspects of h 1B filing, don’t feel alone, as immigration attorneys from Herman Legal Group are there to support you at all stages of the visa process.
Herman Legal Group is one of the leading immigration law firms in the US. We have over 26
years of experience in representing individuals, families, and companies in all aspects of immigration law, including employment visas. We are an AV-Rated law firm and have been awarded the designation of “Best Law Firm” by US News & World Report. Schedule a consultation with one of the experienced immigration lawyers by calling 1-800-808-4013 or 1-216-696-6170 or by booking online. Consultations can be conducted by zoom, skype, WhatsApp, facetime, or in-office.
Frequently Asked Questions About Prevailing Wage for H1B Petitions (FAQs)
#What are the factors upon which the prevailing wage depends on?
The prevailing wages will mainly depend upon the following factors-
- The geographic location of the occupation.
- The job duties, i.e., considering the responsibilities to be performed under the job. (SOC Code)
- The nature of the job offer.
#How are prevailing wages decided?
The US DoL will decide the prevailing wages on the basis of wage surveys conducted about wage rates paid to the similarly employed workers in a particular location. Therefore, in prime locations (big cities), the prevailing wage could be higher because of higher wages paid to the employers, and the same could be less for the same job position in semi-urban places where the cost of living is less.
#Is the prevailing wage different each year?
You cannot rely on the prevailing wage of the past as it may vary with each year. The Department of Labor will take surveys to collect labor statistics for the current wage level. You can check the OES surveys that are published every year to have the latest and correct information.
#Can I complain to the Department of Labor if my employer is paying me less than the prevailing wages?
Yes, the employer’s minimum requirement to hire H 1b worker is to pay the prevailing wage rate to the employee. They cannot escape this duty because it is necessary to ensure
- The cheap Labor market in the US
- Appropriate wage level paid to the foreign worker to protect them from exploitation.
Therefore, if your employer has offered you or is paying you wages less than the prevailing wage in the market, you can file a complaint to the Department of Labor by filing Form WH4.