How to find the correct prevailing wage level for your H-1B petition?

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How to find the correct prevailing wage level for your H-1B petition?

Are you trying to find the prevailing wage for your H-1B visa? How to find the correct prevailing wage level for your H-1B petition?

The first place to start is flcdatacenter.com. This is the website set up by the DOL that lists the prevailing wages and levels for each county in the U.S.

The problem is that the instructions that the employer is supposed to follow in determining the correct wage level are confusing.

Here are the instructions from the FAQ:

How do I determine the skill and wage level? 
Information on determining skill and wage levels under the revised prevailing wage guidance for nonagricultural programs is available on the Skills Page.

The Skills Page states:

Prevailng Wage Policy Guidance

The implementation of the H-1B Reform Act and the publication of the PERM regulation necessitate the need to issue policy clarification and procedural guidance to the State Workforce Agencies. The guidance provides the step-by-step procedure for selecting the appropriate wage level for prevailing wage purposes.

The links below are for PDF versions of the Full Guidance Document, and for specific appendicies that are included in the full document but may be useful as seperate downloads.

This page and the links below reflect the November 2009 revision to the Prevailing Wage Policy Guidance.

Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance for Nonagricultural Immigration Programs; Revised November 2009 (Includes appendicies A and B)

The instructions are as follows:

1.   OES Wage Levels

The new requirements specify that determinations using a government survey shall be made available for each occupation at 4 levels of wages commensurate with experience, education, and the level of supervision. The NPWHC shall make a prevailing wage determination selecting one of the four wage levels for an occupation based on a comparison of the employer’s job requirements to the occupational requirements: tasks, knowledge, skills, and specific vocational preparation (education, training, and experience) generally required for acceptable performance in that occupation.

It is important to remember that wage levels are determined only after selecting the most relevant O*NET­SOC occupational code classification. The selection of the O*NET­SOC code should not be based solely on the title of the employer’s job offer. The NPWHC should consider the particulars of the employer’s job offer and compare the full description to the tasks, knowledge, and work activities generally associated with an O*NET­SOC occupation to insure the most relevant occupational code has been selected.

Level I (entry) wage rates are assigned to job offers for beginning level employees who have only a basic understanding of the occupation. These employees perform routine tasks that require limited, if any, 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 purposes.

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.

Level II (qualified) wage rates are assigned to job offers for qualified employees who have attained, either through education or experience, a good understanding of the occupation. They perform moderately complex tasks that require 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.

Level III (experienced) wage rates are assigned to job offers for experienced employees who have a sound understanding of the occupation and have attained, either through education or experience, special skills or knowledge. They perform tasks that require exercising judgment and may coordinate the activities of other staff. They may have supervisory authority over those staff. A requirement for years of experience or educational degrees that are at the higher ranges indicated in the O*NET Job Zones would be indicators that a Level III wage should be considered.

Frequently, key words in the job title can be used as indicators that an employer’s job offer is for an experienced worker. Words such as ‘lead’ (lead analyst), ‘senior’ (senior programmer), ‘head’ (head nurse), ‘chief’ (crew chief), or ‘journeyman’ (journeyman plumber) would be indicators that a Level III wage should be considered.

Level IV (fully competent) wage rates are assigned to job offers for competent employees who have sufficient experience in the occupation to plan and conduct work requiring judgment and the independent evaluation, selection, modification, and application of standard procedures and techniques. Such employees use advanced skills and diversified knowledge to solve unusual and complex problems. These employees receive only technical guidance and their work is reviewed only for application of sound judgment and effectiveness in meeting the establishment’s procedures and expectations. They generally have management and/or supervisory responsibilities.

2.   Process for Determining Wage Level

The NPWHC shall use O*NET information to identify the 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 judgment, the amount and level of supervision, and the level of understanding required to perform the job duties. NPWHC may need to contact employers for additional information to obtain this information, if needed.

Information contained in the O*NET Job Zones provides guidance in determining whether the job offer is for an entry level, qualified, experienced, or fully competent employee for making the determination of wage level. Employer requirements in a job offer that are at the upper range of the requirements and preparation generally required for performance in an occupation are indicators that a prevailing wage determination at a higher level should be considered. The O*NET Job Zones were developed to transition from the Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP), as shown in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), to measures of experience, education, and job training included in the O*NET database. A listing of SVPs and their definitions can be found in Appendix E of this document.

A step ­by ­step process for arriving at the appropriate wage level is described below. Points are awarded based on the comparison of an employer’s job offer requirements to the general requirements for similar occupations. The points are entered on a worksheet then added to arrive at the wage level. NPWHC should follow the step ­by­ step process while completing the worksheet.

The appendices section of this document provides several guides that can be used for reference during the process:

Appendix A: OES Prevailing Wage Guidance repeats the step­by­step process and can be used as a reference guide.

Appendix B: Check Sheet for Use in Determining OES Wage Level has been provided to track the process.

Appendix C: Worksheet for Use in Determining OES Wage Level provides an example of a worksheet that NPWHC might use for determining the appropriate wage level.

All employer applications for a prevailing wage determination shall initially be considered an entry level or Level I wage. The employer’s requirements for experience, education, training, and special skills shall be compared to those generally required for an occupation as described in O*NET and shall be used as indicators that the job opportunity is for an experienced (Level II), qualified (Level III), or fully competent (Level

  1. worker and warrants a prevailing wage determination at a higher wage level.

All prevailing wage determinations start with a Level I determination; therefore, the check sheet and worksheet have a 1 entered in the Wage Level Column.

Step 1 – Enter the O*NET Requirements on the Worksheet

  • Use the O*NET OnLine ‘Find Occupations’ feature (http://online.onetcenter.org) to determine the appropriate O*NET­SOC code based on the job title provided on the prevailing wage determination request form.
  • Enter the job title from the employer’s job offer into the Quick Search box and click on Go.
  • Select the O*NET occupation that most closely matches the employer’s request from the resulting list of occupations.
  • Review the Tasks, Knowledge, Work Activities, and Job Zone information contained in the O*NET summary report to gain an understanding of what is generally required for vocational preparation and performance in that occupation.

Enter the O*NET education and experience requirements on the Worksheet.

Step 2 – Complete the Experience Section of the Worksheet

Compare the overall experience described in the O*NET Job Zone to the years of experience required by the employer on the prevailing wage determination request form.

For occupations contained in Job Zone 1, if the employer’s experience requirement is equivalent to that described in an:

  • SVP of 1 (experience requirement of a short duration), enter a 0 in the Wage Level Column.
  • SVP of 2 (experience requirement of anything beyond short duration and up to 1 month), enter a 1 in the Wage Level Column.
  • SVP of 3 (experience requirement of over 1 month up to and including 3 months), enter a 2 in the Wage Level Column.
  • SVP of 4 (experience requirement of over 3 months up to and including 6 months), enter a 3 in the Wage Level Column.

Refer to Appendix E: Specific Vocational Preparation (SVP) for an explanation of the experience requirements related to an SVP level.

For occupations in Job Zones 2 through 5, if the employer’s experience requirement is:

  • At or below the level of experience and SVP range, make no entry in the Wage Level Column.
  • In the low end of the experience and SVP range, enter a 1 in the Wage Level Column.
  • In the high end of the experience and SVP range, enter a 2 in the Wage Level Column.
  • Greater than the experience and SVP range, enter a 3 in the Wage Level Column.

Points should be added for the amount of experience only if the required work experience is above the starting point of the O*NET job zone range. Education required for the job is addressed in Step 3 of the worksheet, and therefore the years of education required should not be considered in Step 2. However, if education is considered as an equivalent amount of experience in Step 2, it should not also be considered in Step 3.

Step 3 – Complete the Education Section of the Worksheet

Compare the education requirement generally required for an occupation to the education requirement in the employer’s job offer.

Determine if the level required by the employer’s job offer is greater than what is generally required.

Professional Occupations by O*NET­SOC category and the related education and training category code are listed in Appendix A to the Preamble of the PERM regulations. The education and training categories assigned to those occupations shall be considered the usual education and training required when considering the education level for prevailing wage determinations. A listing of occupations designated as professional occupations and the related education and training category can be found in Appendix D of this document.

For professional occupations:

  • If the education required on the prevailing wage determination request form is equal to or less than the usual education contained in Appendix D, make no entry in the Wage Level Column.
  • If the education required on the prevailing wage determination request form is more than the usual education contained in Appendix D by one category, enter a 1 on the worksheet in the Wage Level Column.
  • If the education required is more than the usual education contained in Appendix D by more than one category, enter a 2 on the worksheet in the Wage Level Column.

Example: If the occupation generally requires a Bachelor’s degree and the employer’s job offer requires a Master’s degree, enter a 1; if the job offer requires a Ph.D., enter a 2.

For all other occupations, use the education level for what ‘most of these occupations’ require or ‘these occupations usually require’ described in the O*NET Job Zone for that occupation.

  • If the education or training is equal to or less than what ‘most occupations require’ or the level that these occupations ‘usually’ require, make no entry in the Wage Level Column.
  • If the education or training is more than what ‘most occupations require’ or the level that these occupations ‘usually’ require, enter a 1 on the worksheet in the Wage Level Column.
  • If the education or training required on the prevailing wage determination request form is more than the level described by what ‘some may require,’ enter a 2 on the worksheet in the Wage Column.

Experience required for the job is addressed in Step 2 of the worksheet, and therefore the years of experience required should not be considered in Step 3.

Step 4 – Complete the Special Skills and Other Requirements Section of the Worksheet

  • Review the job title, job description (duties), and special requirements on the prevailing wage determination request form to identify the tasks, work activities, knowledge, and skills required. An employer’s requirement for an occupational license and/or certification should be evaluated to determine if they are indicators of a requirement for special skills warranting the award of a point or points on the worksheet. They may not necessarily be such an indicator.
  • Make note of machines, equipment, tools, or computer software used. Consider how the employer’s requirements compare to the O*NET Tasks, Work Activities, Knowledge, and Job Zone Examples. Consider whether the employer’s requirements indicate the need for skills beyond those of an entry­level worker.
  • In situations where the employer’s requirements are not listed in the O*NET Tasks, Work Activities, Knowledge, and Job Zone Examples for the selected occupation, then the requirements should be evaluated to determine if they represent special skills. The requirement of a specific skill not listed in the

O*NET does not necessitate that a point be added. If the specific skills required for the job are generally encompassed by the O*NET description for the position, no point should be added. However, if it is determined that the requirements are indicators of skills that are beyond those of an entry level worker, consider whether a point should be entered on the worksheet in the Wage Level Column.

Note: A language requirement other than English in an employer’s job offer shall generally be considered a special skill for all occupations, with the exception of Foreign Language Teachers and Instructors, Interpreters, and Caption Writers, and a point should be entered on the worksheet.

It is recognized, however, that there may be circumstances where a foreign language is required for the job, but that requirement does not sufficiently increase the seniority and complexity of the position such that a point must be added for the foreign language requirement (e.g. Specialty Cooks).

  • If the employer’s job opportunity requires the possession of a license or certification, the NPWHC must give careful consideration to the occupation in question and the education, training, and experience requirements of the license or certification to evaluate whether possession of a license or certification is an indicator that the offer of employment is for an experienced worker.
  • An employer’s requirement for the possession of an occupational license or certification does not constitute a situation where a point must automatically be awarded. The NPWHC should look at the employer’s job description and stated requirements to evaluate, along with other factors, whether the position is closely supervised, involves only moderately complex duties, and allows limited exercise of independent judgment. If the license or certification is a normal requirement to perform the job duties as an entry level worker, no point should be added on the worksheet in the Wage Column, e.g., attorney, teacher, registered nurse.
  • Some occupations have more than one license and the requirements of the license provide an indicator of the level of independent judgment and complexity of tasks required of the licensee, e.g., Journeyman Plumber or Master Plumber. The NPWHC must consider the education, training, and experience requirements of the license or certification to determine when points should be entered on the worksheet in the Wage Column.

If a substantial amount of work experience, education, or training is required to obtain a license or certification and this results in the total amount of necessary work experience being on the high end of the O*NET job zone range, a point could be added either in Step 2 for the work experience, or in Step 3 for the education or training, or in Step 4 for the license. A point or points should not be added in every step.

Step 5 – Complete the Supervisory Duties Section of the Worksheet

  • Review the prevailing wage determination request form to determine the number or range of people to be supervised to determine if there is a supervisory requirement; and
  • If the number is greater than 0, then enter a 1 on the worksheet in the Wage Level Column.

Exception: If supervision is a customary duty for the O*NET occupation (e.g., First­line Supervisors/Managers occupations), do not enter a 1 on the worksheet in the Wage Level Column.

Note: Previous guidance suggested that an employer’s job offer that included supervisory duties should be assigned the higher of the two previous wage levels. In this new guidance, an employer’s job requirement for supervisory duties will not automatically warrant a determination of the highest wage level because the wages for supervisory occupations already account for the supervision of employees. The guidance contained above for evaluating education, experience, and skills required in an employer’s job offer should be used to determine the appropriate wage level for supervisory occupations.

Determine the wage level by summing the numbers in the Wage Level Column of the worksheet. The sum total shall equal the wage for the prevailing wage determination. If the sum total is greater than 4, then the wage level shall be Level 4.

The process described above should not be implemented in an automated fashion. The NPWHC must exercise judgment when making prevailing wage determinations. The wage level should be commensurate with the complexity of tasks, independent judgment required, and amount of close supervision received as described in the employer’s job opportunity.

3.  Foreign Labor Certification Data Center On­line Wage Library

Use the On­line Wage Library (OWL) found on the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center website (http://www.flcdatacenter.com/ ) to select the prevailing wage for the occupation.

Use the OES Search Wizard to:

  • Select the state and geographic area from the drop­down lists.
    • Select the occupation using the first 6 digits of the O*NET­SOC code, OR
    • Select the occupation from the drop­down list or enter the title in the key word search box.
    • Select a data year.
    • Select a data source.
  • Click on search.

What a Nightmare!

We found that the above instructions were hard to follow and led to inconsistent results.

So we took the Prevailing Wage Policy Guidance detailed above and built a tool that allows you to quickly and easily determine the prevailing wage amount and level.

You simply:

  • Select the Occupational Title
  • Select the Work location Zip Code
  • Enter the Employer’s minimum requirements for the position
  • Try our prevailing wage tool now and let us know what you think!

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