In the PERM stage of the green card process, usually once the beneficiary’s employer has finalized all job duties and requirements, it is a mandatory step to submit a prevailing wage request (PWR) to the Department of Labor’s National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) to determine the prevailing wage of the offered position. It is an employer’s obligation to pay the offered salary to the beneficiary upon approval of his/her green card. Knowing what is the prevailing wage will allow an employer to decide if they need to raise the beneficiary’s salary, would like to proceed further with the PERM process before committing to any recruitment costs, or know if the company has any ability to pay issues during the I-140 stage (2nd step of the employment green card process) among other details.
Taking approximately 60 calendar days, the NPWC issues a prevailing wage determination (PWD) based on the Standard Occupation Code (SOC) job title, employment location, education, experience, required travel, supervision/consulting duties, special licenses, and foreign language knowledge. Below are further details on each factor:
- Standard Occupation Code (SOC) Job Title
When requesting a PWD, a suggested SOC occupational code/title is listed based on what the employer believes the NPWC will pick. The NPWC will then determine whether the suggested occupational title is appropriate for the duties required by the employer. Some occupational codes may share similar duties and requirements but have different job wages. However, when different SOC titles share some similar duties, the suggested title may influence which job title the NPWC ultimately selects.
- Employment Location
The employment location refers to the geographic area where the work will be performed. Each geographic area has different prevailing wages, which can be found at flcdatacenter.com. If a company’s headquarters is located in one city but the beneficiary will be working in another city, the location where the beneficiary will be working should be listed and the NPWC will determine the salary based on that. In special cases, companies that hire consulting or positions with multiple or unfixed work locations (roaming positions) will most likely list the company’s headquarters.
- Education and Experience
Once the job title and location have been established, for every degree higher and experience than what is required by the SOC, the Wage Level will increase one level. For example, if a bachelor’s degree is usually required but an employer is requiring a Master’s degree, the Wage Level will increase by one level, and if a PhD is required, the wage level will increase by two level. Also note that the education requirements will affect whether the beneficiary can qualify for the employment based categories of EB-2 (Bachelor’s plus five years or Master’ degree and higher) or EB-3 (Bachelor’s degree with less than five years of experience).
- Travel, Supervision/Consulting Duties, Special Licenses, and Foreign Language Knowledge
These four factors are considered beyond normal requirements and per each additional requirement can increase the wage level. In some instances if the occupation does require a special license, it will not affect the wage level. Particularly for foreign languages, the employer will need to show why such knowledge of a foreign language is necessary for the offered position.
In conclusion, each factor can influence the outcome of the PWD, some more so than others. The more experience, education, special skills, and supervisory duties required by the employer the higher the wage level will be. For a more in-depth explanation, please refer to the Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance (November 2009), which also contains a worksheet that can be filled out to determine where the job position falls in terms of wage level.