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Foreign Labor Certification

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Information and Resources, Online Wage Library, Background Revised April 20, 2010

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed. To comply with the statute, the Department's regulations require that the wages offered to a foreign worker must be the prevailing wage rate for the occupational classification in the area of employment.

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. Effective January 4, 2010, employers can obtain this wage rate by submitting a request to the National Prevailing Wage and Center (NPWC), or by accessing other legitimate sources of information such as the Online Wage Library, available for use in some programs.

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.

The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has provided wage data collected under the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program for use in the Foreign Labor Certification process since 1998. The wage data is available on the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center Online Wage Library (OWL), found at the following website:

Since September 1999, the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) has been used by the OES program to classify occupational wage information. The SOC provides a common language for categorizing occupations. It also serves as the framework for information being gathered through the Department of Labor's Occupational Information Network (O*NET). The O*NET provides the general public information on skills, abilities, knowledge, tasks, work activities, and the specific vocational preparation levels associated with occupations. O*NET information can be found at 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.

Prevailing Wage Processing and Policy Updates effective January 2010:
The publication of the H2B regulation in December 2008 and the corresponding changes to PERM, H1B, H1B1, H1C and E3
regulations governing temporary professional, nonagricultural, or registered nursing programs changed the roles of the State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) and National Processing Centers (NPCs) in the prevailing wage determination process. Specifically, the 2008 H2B Final Rule brought two major changes that affected the processing of prevailing wage determinations: Federalizing the function of processing prevailing wage determinations (PWDs); and implementing use of a standard Prevailing Wage Request Form, ETA Form 9141, for all nonagricultural prevailing wage requests. (The H2A temporary agricultural program does not follow these procedures.)

The National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center was opened on January 4, 2010, and began receiving prevailing wage requests for use in the H1B, H1B1 (Chile/Singapore), H2B, E3 (Australia) and the permanent labor certification programs.

The Department has updated the Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance for use in the Nonagricultural Immigration Programs. To read the updated Prevailing Wage guidance, please click here. The Department has also posted Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that address the filing and processing of PWD requests. To read the FAQs, please click here. The Department will continue to update these sites, as well as the Online Wage Library.