What is PWD (Prevailing Wage Determination)?
A Prevailing Wage Determination (PWD) is a critical component of the employment-based immigration process in the U.S., particularly in cases where employers are sponsoring foreign workers for certain visa categories, such as the H-1B, H-2B, H-2A, and permanent labor certification (PERM) programs.
The prevailing wage is the minimum wage rate that must be paid to foreign workers to ensure that their employment does not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar job positions in the same geographic area.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for determining the prevailing wage for specific job categories and locations.
Here’s how the Prevailing Wage Determination process typically works:
- Employer’s Role: When an employer seeks to hire a foreign worker through a work visa program or permanent labor certification, they must submit a request for a prevailing wage determination to the DOL.
- Job Description: The employer provides a detailed job description, including information about the job duties, educational and experience requirements, and location of employment.
- DOL’s Determination: The DOL reviews the information provided by the employer and conducts a survey or uses wage data from reliable sources to determine the prevailing wage for the specific job in the specified geographic area. The prevailing wage is typically categorized into different skill levels, and the determination is based on the complexity of the job and the skills required.
- Employer’s Obligation: Once the DOL issues the prevailing wage determination, the employer is required to pay the foreign worker at least the prevailing wage rate for the position and location. The prevailing wage serves as a floor, meaning the employer cannot pay the worker less than this wage, but they can choose to pay more if they wish.
- Inclusion in Visa Petitions: The employer includes the prevailing wage determination in the visa petition or labor certification application filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the DOL, depending on the specific immigration program.
The prevailing wage determination is essential to ensure that foreign workers are not hired at lower wages that would undercut U.S. workers in the same labor market.
It’s worth noting that the prevailing wage rates can vary significantly based on the specific occupation, location, and wage level.
How to submit the PWD (Prevailing Wage Determination)?
Submitting a Prevailing Wage Request with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) typically involves the following steps:
- Determine the Appropriate DOL Program:
- Identify the specific DOL program for which you need a prevailing wage determination. The program could be related to various employment-based immigration categories or labor certifications (e.g., H-1B, H-2B, PERM, etc.).
- Create an Online Account (if required):
- In many cases, you may need to create an online account on the DOL’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) system. This is the platform where you’ll submit your prevailing wage request. Make sure to provide accurate information and follow the registration instructions.
- Submit the Request:
- Log in to the DOL’s online system (e.g., FLAG) and complete ETA Form-9141 (Application for Prevailing Wage Determination). You will typically need to provide information about the job position, such as the job title, job duties, educational and experience requirements, location, and other relevant details.
- Await Processing:
- After you’ve submitted the request, you’ll need to wait for the DOL to process your application. Processing times can vary, so it’s important to plan ahead and submit the request well in advance of the anticipated need.
- Receive the Determination:
- Once the DOL has reviewed your request, they will issue a prevailing wage determination, which specifies the minimum wage rate that must be paid to the foreign worker for the job position in question. This determination will be sent to you electronically or via the online system.
- Use the Determination in Your Application:
- After receiving the prevailing wage determination, you’ll need to include it in the application for the relevant visa category or labor certification program. This could be part of the documentation submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The first step of completing a PERM (Labor Certification) process is to file a Prevailing Wage Request (Form ETA-9141).
PERM stands for Program Electronic Review Management, and it is a crucial part of the employment-based immigration process in the U.S.
Specifically, PERM is a process that U.S. employers must go through when they want to sponsor a foreign national for a green card through employment.
The green card allows the foreign national to live and work permanently in the U.S.
The Prevailing Wage Request (Form ETA-9141) is filed online through the U.S. Department of Labor FLAG website.
U.S. employer must create an online FLAG account to file a Prevailing Wage Request with the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC).
Form ETA-9141 collects the following information:
- Information about the proposed job
- Job title
- Job duties
- Experience requirements
- Educational requirements
PWD (Prevailing Wage Determination) processing times
The average processing time of the Prevailing Wage Determination varies. You can check the FLAG website for the current Processing Times information.
What to do after PWD (Prevailing Wage Determination) is issued?
The wage reported on the Prevailing Wage Determination is the minimum wage the U.S. employer may pay to the employee either at the time they become a permanent resident (for PERM applications) or start of H-1B position.
Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs) are valid for a limited period of time and have expiration dates listed on them. PWDs are typically for at least 90 days from the date of the determination and valid for no more than one year.
The U.S. employer must either file the PERM application or start the recruitment process before the PWD expiration date.