H1B Wage Level and H1B Prevailing Wage Explained
Posted by Frank Gogol
Updated on March 24, 2022
Are you looking to apply for an H1B visa? Do you have some questions regarding the application process for an employment-based visa in the U.S.? For example, why is the prevailing wage for your intended position so important?
Employment-based visas are regulated by all kinds of laws and rules. That is why an H1B wage level is so important. Here you can find some more information to help you understand how it works and why the prevailing wage is so important.
Table of Contents
Why is There a Minimum Wage Requirement for H1B Visas?
H1B wages levels exist to guarantee that H1B workers are paid comparably to U.S. workers and to prevent H1B visa holders from being exploited as cheap labor.
H1B employers are, by law, required to submit key job information to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) as part of the Labor Condition Application (LCA). The key job information includes, but is not limited to:
- Wage level
- Job Title
What is the H1B Wage Level?
The H1B wage level (also known as the prevailing wage) is the average wage earned by employees in a specific area. Each type of job has its own prevailing wage for a specific area.
The Foreign Labor Application Data Center stores data about jobs in America. You can visit their website and search for the prevailing wage of any type of job within a specified area. You can also use online resources to check on the status of LCA requests.
The H1B Wage Levels Explained
Each type of job has four different levels of income:
- H1B Wage Level 1
- H1B Wage Level 2
- H1B Wage Level 3
- H1B Wage Level 4
The level implies a sense of seniority, management, or leadership associated with higher-paying jobs. You must know the level of the job you are searching for since the H1B wage level determines the prevailing wage.
H1B Wage Levels Overview
The table below offers a high-level overview of each H1B wage level and its associated H1B LCA Wage Percentile:
|Prevailing Wage Level||H1B LCA Wage Percentile|
|Wage Level 1||17th percentile|
|Wage Level 2||34th percentile|
|Wage Level 3||50th percentile|
|Wage Level 4||67th percentile|
In the sections below, we’ll discuss each wage level in more detail.
H1B Wage Level 1
H1B Wage Level 1 is the entry-level wage for H1B workers who have a basic understanding of performing the job’s duties. The level one wage is in the 17th percentile.
H1B Wage Level 2
H1B Wage Level 2 is the next step up. H1B workers with relevant education and experience usually fall into this category. Level two corresponds to the 34th percentile.
H1B Wage Level 3
H1B Wage Level 3 makes up the 50th percentile. This H1B wage level is given to experienced employees who have a deeper understanding of the job only attainable through years of experience. This wage level may include management work.
H1B Wage Level 4
H1B Wage Level 4 is the final level and corresponds to the 67th percentile of H1B workers. The level four H1B wage is reserved for competent workers who are experts in their field and typically comes with high-level management responsibilities.
Why is the H1B Prevailing Wage So Important?
The Department of Labor (DOL) and the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) work together to certify and grant employment-based visas like the H1B visa. They want to protect the U.S. job market from being exploited by cheap labor practices.
Therefore, before anyone from abroad may accept a job or even get an H1B visa, the position must first pass an LCA (Labor Condition Application) test. The test has some more implications but one of the key points is the H1B wage level.
For those wondering, here’s a handy guide for who needs to file an LCA for an H1B visa.
Determining the H1B Prevailing Wage Levels
The Department of Labor (DOL) provides official guidance on how the prevailing wage levels are set and what data is used for the same. You can read about the Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance for more information about the wage determination process.
H1B Wage Level Requirements for LCA
As previously mentioned, the wage level of the type of job you are applying for from abroad determines the salary. A higher wage level determines a higher salary.
The most important thing, however, is the fact that you may not earn less than the prevailing wage for your specific type of job in the area it’s listed in. Earning less than the prevailing wage won’t get an LCA approval.
Making Sure Your Wage Level Support Your Case
H1B visas are reserved for people with a special skill, knowledge, or ability that is not readily available in the U.S. Therefore, the wage level is key to determining whether or not the LCA is approved and the H1B visa awarded.
H1B visas are reserved for individuals with specific knowledge and skills that will be beneficial to the United States. Accordingly, lower wage levels, like H1B level one wages, are typically only given when there is a shortage of a desirable skill in the area you are applying.
You need to be sure that the H1B job you are applying for has a wage level that supports the grounds of your immigration attempt. Your best advice regarding immigration law will come from a professional like a U.S. registered immigration attorney. They will help you improve your chances of success as you apply for your H1B visa.
It’s important to note, too, that some applications for H1B visas have been denied because of the level of the H1B wage level of the advertised job position. So, once again, it is really important to make sure your H1B application has enough merit to stand a chance of success.
How to Check the H1B Prevailing Wage for Job by Location
It’s possible to look up the prevailing wage for a particular position in a specific location. Follow the steps below to find the prevailing wage for a job by geographical area:
- Visit the H1BGrader.com Prevailing Wage Search Page
- Enter the Job Title SOC Code and Area Name
The results will display the H1B Prevailing Wage Levels with the base salary that has to be paid to H1B workers for a particular wage level in that area.
If you want to explore a step further, you can check the prevailing wages for H1B workers for the last five years. To do so, visit the History of H1B Prevailing Wages search and repeat the steps above.
How to Find H1B Wage Levels using FLCDataCenter
Another resource for checking the H1B prevailing wage is the FLCDataCenter. To look up the prevailing wage on the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center site, follow the steps below:
- Visit the FLCDataCenter site and select the search wizard from the menu on the left
- Select the options for the Source of the Database for Prevailing wage
The search will return information regarding the prevailing wage for the search options you selected.
It’s important to note that you should know the specific wage level that is being filed for your position as well as the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code that your future employer plans to use for the position. This information will be returned in the same search results.
How to Find Your Wage Level with an H1B LCA
You can find your current H1B Wage Level by looking at Section G of your H1B Labor Condition Application. It has all the information related to your H1B position (Wage Level, Wage in that area, and Wage database year), which should have been shared with you by your future employer.
You can also use H1BGrader.com LCA Search to view your LCA details if you know your LCA number.
If the employer has not provided a copy of your LCA, you may request one directly from them.
H1B Wage Level and H1B Prevailing Wage FAQs
Below are some common questions regarding H1B Wage Levels and H1B Prevailing Wages.
What are H1B wages and prevailing wages?
The prevailing wage is the average wage paid to people working in a similar job. Prevailing wages are also determined by only using the data in a specified area, thus keeping the information relevant to the specific geographical location or the job.
How are H1B wages determined?
Three factors determine the prevailing wage:
- The nature of the job offer
- The area where the job is performed
- The duties required to be performed in the job
How is the prevailing wage calculated?
The prevailing wage for the covered occupations is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor through surveys of wages paid in those occupations in surrounding areas so that the wages reflect the local economy. A state with a higher wage for a given position will have a higher prevailing wage.
Does an H1B worker have to be paid the prevailing wage to comply with H1B requirements?
The employer must pay the employee the prevailing wage or the actual wage in cases where it surpasses the prevailing wage. You don’t have to worry about earning less than your peers. This protects you from being treated unfairly while it also protects the U.S. job market and economy.
Does the H1B wage level include bonuses?
A bonus is a payment made in addition to the employee’s regular earnings. Under the FLSA, all compensation for hours worked, services rendered, or performance is included in the regular rate of pay.
How long does prevailing wage determination take in 2022?
It can take the Department of Labor anywhere from a few weeks to over two months to determine a prevailing wage. From there, the employer must post the job for at least 30 days then wait an additional 30 days for potential applicants to respond for a total of at least two more months for recruitment.
Does the prevailing or minimum wage for H1B LCA vary by year?
Yes. The prevailing wage is based on wage surveys conducted by OES and it is published every year. The annual data will reflect any increases or decreases to wage rates.
What happens if my employer does not pay according to the H1B LCA prevailing wage?
If your employer is not meeting the requirement according to the prevailing wage, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor by filing Form WH4.
Further Reading About H1B Visas
- 6 Ways to Find an H1B Visa Sponsorship
- How to Change Jobs on an H1B Visa
- The Non-ECR Category: A Guide
- H1B Visa Stamping: H1B Visa Interview Documents and More
- Complete Guide to the H1B to Green Card Process
- H1B Transfer: How To Change Jobs on an H1B Visa
H1B visas are only granted to people who take jobs in the U.S. that have been approved by the Department of Labor. The Labor Condition Application (LCA) must be approved for that job before you can get the related employment-based visa.
Determining the prevailing wage for that job and comparing it to the actual wage offered in the job position is a key requirement in the LCA process. An H1B visa will not be available to someone if the wage for that job is not high enough. The actual wage offered must either match or exceed the prevailing wage for that job relevant to its immediate location. Just remember to compare jobs on the corresponding H1B wage level.
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