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Employment law

prevailing wage

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 U.S. Department of Labor’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 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 H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 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 website at

The relevant prevailing wage information is determined in part by whether the worker is in one of the Nonagricultural Immigration Programs (PERM, H-2B, H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C and E-3) or the Agricultural Immigration Program (H-2A).

The NPWC uses the Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance in issuing wage determinations for the Nonagricultural Immigration Programs. The Department updated the guidance in November 2009 following the publication of the H-2B regulation and the corresponding changes to PERM, H-1B, H-1B1, H-1C and E-3 regulations that affected the prevailing wage determination process.

For the H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 programs, employers have the option of using one of three wage sources to obtain the prevailing wage: (1) a PWD obtained from the NPWC; (2) a survey conducted by an independent authoritative source; or (3) another legitimate source of wage information. By obtaining a PWD from the NPWC, H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 employers are given “safe-harbor status,” meaning that if the employer's wage compliance is investigated for any reason, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor will not challenge the validity of the prevailing wage as long as it was applied properly (i.e., correct geographic area, occupation, and skill level).

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), employers in Texas, as in other states, must ensure that hiring foreign workers does not negatively impact the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar roles. To comply, employers must offer foreign workers the prevailing wage rate, which is the average wage for the occupation in the intended employment area. This rate can be determined by submitting a request to the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) or using other approved sources like the Online Wage Library. Most employment-based visa programs, including H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3, require employers to pay the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid to similar employees. The Department of Labor provides wage data for these determinations through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. For H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 visas, employers can use a Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) from the NPWC, an independent survey, or another legitimate wage source. A PWD from the NPWC grants employers 'safe-harbor status,' protecting them from wage validity challenges in Department of Labor investigations if applied correctly.

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