One of the key things that are important for H1B Visa approval and compliance is to have proper wages paid to the H1B worker. The minimum wage or salary for H1B workers is defined and set by the concept of ‘Wage Levels’. The wage levels for a job depend on some factors like experience, area, SOC Code, and location.
In this article, we review all the details of Wage Levels, how they are determined, and the importance of the same in H1B LCA for approval from USCIS.
Why do we have a minimum wage requirement for H1B LCA?
The reason for having a minimum wage for H1B workers, including the concept of wage levels by experience, is to make sure H1B workers are paid on par with the US workers and not exploited by employers as cheap labor. Also, the employers must provide similar working conditions like their fellow US workers. These requirements are put in place by the US Department of Labor to ensure that foreign workers are not exploited unfairly.
To meet these requirements, H1B employers must submit details such as listed below:
- The position’s Wage level, which is based on the experience required for the position.
- The location of the H1B Job
- The Job title of the H1B Job.
Also, other information about the job is submitted for compliance as part of the Labor Condition Application ( LCA ) to the US Dept of Labor.
Background of Prevailing Wage Levels
The concept of Wage levels was first introduced in October 1997, where they introduced two skill levels:
- Level I for beginning-level employees
- Level II for fully competent employees.
While only these two levels worked well for some time, there were many issues in determining the wage for management roles and advanced judgment-based skills.
The concept of four wage levels for H1B LCAs was introduced in 2004 under the “H1B Visa Reform Act of 2004”. That’s how the H1B prevailing wage levels came into existence.
Now that you know the background, let’s look at the details.
What are H1B Wage Levels?
H1B Wage Level (or H1B prevailing wage) is the minimum wage a worker earns in a particular area for a particular job with a particular experience. The H1B wage levels are defined so that H1B workers are paid the prevailing wage based on education, experience, and location, similar to US workers.
H1B Wage Levels are defined by the US Department of Labor (DOL). They are based on the prevailing wage data collected under Occupational Employment Statistics(OES) Program, which is based on location, job title, experience, and a few other criteria.
Employers need to fill in the wage level data as part of the H1B LCA as part of the Labor Condition Application Process.
How are H1B Wage Levels defined? How many?
The US Department of Labor has divided the H1B Wage Levels into four, which is based on the OES program. They are named as below:
- Wage Level I
- Wage Level II
- Wage Level II
- Wage Level IV
Below is how the wage level field looks on an H1B LCA. Employers need to select one of the Wage Levels when they submit the LCA in the US DOL online system.
Each of the above wage levels is defined to reflect the experience of an H1B worker and represented as a percentile. If you are not familiar, ‘Percentile’ is not ‘Percentage’. Check Percentile Wikipedia to know more.
Below are the H1B wage levels definitions and their percentiles.
- H1B Wage Level 1 – Entry: This wage level is for entry level H1B workers with basic understanding of job. This wage level corresponds to 17th Percentile.
- H1B Wage Level 2 – Qualified: This wage level is for qualified workers with education, experience and who can perform moderate tasks with limited judgment. This wage level corresponds to 34th percentile.
- H1B Wage Level 3 – Experienced: This wage level is for experienced workers who have deeper experience attained with education and experience. This level work requires judgment and may also manage people. This wage level corresponds to 50th percentile
- H1B Wage Level 4 – Fully Competent: This wage level the most expert level of workers, who can do complex tasks and can exercise a lot of judgment in their activities. It may include management responsibilities too. This wage level corresponds to 67th percentile.
If we have to summarize in a simple table, it looks like below.
|Prevailing Wage Level||H1B LCA Wage Percentile|
|Wage Level I||17th percentile|
|Wage Level II||34th percentile|
|Wage Level III||50th percentile|
|Wage Level IV||67th percentile|
Determining H1B Prevailing Wage Levels
The US Department of Labor (DOL) has official guidance on how the prevailing wage levels are set and what data is used for the same. Read Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance for complete information on the process of setting the wage levels and other key information that is relevant for minimum wage.
Prevailing Wage Requirement for H1B Visa Petition, LCA
It is the H1B employer’s responsibility to make sure the H1B worker is paid on par with the prevailing wage or minimum wage defined for the H1B job position, similar to a US worker working in a similar job. H1B workers cannot be paid below the minimum wage for the position offered in that area. It is based on various factors related to the job position offered like experience, geographic location, and education.
The minimum wage-related information for various job positions is available at Foreign Labor Certification Data Center website. It is the online wage library for H1B workers to know the minimum wage for a position. The FLCDataCenter website is the official source of prevailing wage information and by the State of Utah under contract with the US Department of Labor, Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
How to check H1B Prevailing Wage Levels for LCA?
We will look at two options to check Prevailing Wage Levels for H1B LCAs, one is at FLCDataCenter.com website and other is at H1BGrader.com website that uses the same official FLCDatacenter.com website data. H1BGrader website has better UI and you can even check history as well.
Check H1B Prevailing Wage Levels for a Job, Location, History
Below is a step by step guide to find the H1B prevailing wage for a position in an area.
Step 1 : Navigate to H1BGrader.com Prevailing Wage Search Page
Step 2 : Enter the Job Title SOC Code and Area Name. You can start typing and you will get suggestions. Select them like below and hit on Search button.
Step 3 : You will see the search results of the H1B Prevailing Wage Levels with a base salary that has to be paid to H1B worker for a particular wage level in that area. It looks like below.
You can even check the history of prevailing wages for H1B based on wage levels for the last 5 years. For that, you need to go to History of H1B Prevailing Wages and follow the same steps as above. It looks like below.
Now, let’s look at how you can check the prevailing wage on the official FLCDataCenter website. The UI is not the best.
How to find H1B Wage Levels using FLCDataCenter
Below is the step-by-step guide to find the minimum wage (prevailing wage) for an H1B job position using the FLCDatacenter.com website.
Step 1 – Navigate to FLCDataCenter website, Select Wage Search Wizard : Navigate to website Foreign Labor Certification Data Center and select the search wizard in the middle of the page. See below screenshot. You can also select Quick Search, if you want to directly go to search. The wizard lets you select state and let you go step by step.
Step 2 – Select Source, Area, Job Title: In this step you need to select the source, area and job title. As show in the below screenshot, select the options for the Source of the Database for Prevailing wage. If you are not sure, just select all industries.
You will need to select the Area where you will plan to work or your job location and then last option is to select the job title of the position or you can also chose to use the keyword option to enter, if you cannot find the job title. See below screenshot showed what you need to do step by step with numbers.
Step 3 – View the Details of Wage Levels : Once you select above options and hit search, you will get wage information like below. It will list all the wage levels and the minim wage for that wage level. One of the key things you need to ask your employer or know is the wage level that is being field 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. You will be able to see that info as well.
Where to find your current Wage Level in H1B LCA ?
You can find your current H1B Wage Level by looking at your H1B Labor Condition Application(LCA). It has all the information related to your H1B position. You can ask your employer to share a copy of the H1B LCA. In fact, they are supposed to share you a copy of your LCA.
To see the wage level info, you need to look at Section F, which tell the information of the Wage Level, Wage offered in that area and the Wage database year. See below screenshot of a Sample Form 9025 (LCA) that is generated by US Department of Labor FLAG system.
If you know the LCA number, you can search for your LCA online on websites like H1BGrader.com LCA Search, to view the LCA details. They get the data from US Dept of Labor H1B LCA disclosure page. You can also go to the DOL Performance Data Disclosure Page and download the excels and search for your case number. The problem is the files are in hundreds of megabytes and not consumable.
It is important to have the right wage level selected as cases with Computer Programmer Level 1 wage are not considered specialty occupation and do not qualify for H1B Visa as per the New Policy Memorandum in April 2017
USCIS would look at the H1B application as a whole and as part of that, they would ensure that H1B worker is paid as per the prevailing wage. If there is any discrepancy, USCIS can report the wage violation for the employer to DOL or ask the employer why not paid on par with others.
Your employer is mandated to pay as per the wages and salary listed on the LCA. If they are not paying so, you can raise a complaint with Department of Labor by filling out WH4 Form. First thing to do is to raise it with employer and ask them to pay back wages or pay as per LCA. If they do not say so, then you can raise a request with WH4 form on DOL website
Yes, it can. The prevailing wage is based on wage surveys conducted by OES and it is published every year. When they publish the wage data, you need to watch closely for changes. You can check H1B Prevailing Wages History to find the history of H1B wage data that is curated by H1Bgrader. You always need to use the most recent Prevailing wage as they mention on the FLCDataCenter website when you file new LCA.
Below is the full list of previous changes and news related to the H1B Wage Levels. These give you a context of how things progressed over the past few years.
H1B Lottery to be based on Wage Levels Rule Cancelled
In 2021, DHS published a final rule in Federal Register that changes the H1B Visa Lottery Selection process from random selection to be based on H1B Wage Levels. Later, a lawsuit was filed on this, and eventually, this was canceled by the court. Eventually, in December 2021, USCIS published a note indicating the withdrawal of the final rule. So, there are no changes to the H1B Lottery process, it will still continue to be based on random selection. Check full details at Check H1B Wage Levels for Lottery article.
Changes to Wage Levels Proposed & Cancelled by Court
In October 2020, there was an Interim Final Rule published by DOL to change the H1B, PERM prevailing wage levels to 45th, 62nd, 78th, and 95th percentile for Wage Level 1 to Wage Level 4. Later in December 2020, two courts issued orders to cancel the changes to wage levels as DOL did not follow proper notice and comment period. Eventually, DOL issued announcement cancelling the H1B, PERM Wage Levels Changes.
Did we miss anything? Your thoughts?