On July 1 of each year, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) publishes prevailing wage rates and salaries that establish a floor for what U.S. businesses must pay foreign workers hired under H-1B and other work visa programs. The prevailing wage rates and salaries announced on July 1 apply for a 12-month period through June 30th of the following year. These wage rates are established separately for each occupation and geographic labor market area so that wages and working conditions for comparable U.S. workers are not adversely affected. There are four levels of prevailing wages for each occupation and labor market area for the H-1B program. Level-1 wages apply to entry-level workers and Level-4 wages apply to the most experienced workers.
We have developed a tool—the interactive map below—that provides a preview of the prevailing wages that the OFLC will officially announce on July 1, 2022. Our interactive map focuses on 20 occupations that account for a substantial majority of H-1B visas and the 100 largest MSAs (metro areas). It includes wage projections for entry-level workers (Level-1) and experienced workers (Level-3) which we can estimate with a high degree of accuracy. Using the interactive map, one can select an occupation and type of worker and see the percentage change in wages by MSA as well as the wage levels when hovering over each area. The wages are reported by calendar year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data publications. Due to delays in collecting, processing, and publishing information, the 2021 wages are used to set the prevailing wage that will be announced in July of this year and the 2020 wage corresponds to the current prevailing wage.
Our interactive map tool is helpful because the percentage change in projected prevailing wages can be substantially different for different occupations and MSAs. For example, for the following two common occupations for H-1B visa holders, one finds that:
- For “Computer and Information System Managers,” projected wages for entry-level (Level-1) differ substantially in tech hub MSAs. While salaries in San Francisco-Oakland metro area are projected to increase less than 1% , salaries in the neighboring San Jose-Santa Clara are projected to decrease 5.2%, and salaries in Seattle, WA and Austin, TX are projected to increase 7.7% and 9.5%, respectively.
- For “Electronics Engineers, Except Computer,” projected changes in prevailing wages also differ substantially, even among larger MSAs. Experienced (Level-3) wages for this occupation are projected to increase by 9.4% in Phoenix (the MSA with the 8th most employees in this occupation) and decrease by 6.4% in Detroit (the MSA with the 9th most employees in this occupation). Entry-level (Level-1) wages for this occupation are projected to increase by 10.6% in Phoenix and decrease by 6.0% in Detroit.
For links to OFLC prevailing wage data as well as answers to frequently asked questions about occupation codes, geographic areas and wage levels see: https://www.flcdatacenter.com/.
The procedures for setting the appropriate wage levels for prevailing wage purposes is explained in the following Guidance Document: https://www.flcdatacenter.com/download/NPWHC_Guidance_Revised_11_2009.pdf
OFLC prevailing wage levels are based on wage information collected by the BLS Occupational Employment and Wages Statistics (OEWS) program (see details at https://www.bls.gov/oes/oes_emp.htm#scope).
Wages in the interactive map above rely upon the OEWS data for calendar years 2020 and 2021. Entry-level (Level-1) wages roughly correspond to wages at the 17th percentile wages for a detailed occupation and geographic area and experienced wages (Level-3) directly correspond to the average wages for the same detailed occupation and geographic area. Our projected Level-1 wages are approximate but accurate. We expect that at least 90% of the Level-1 prevailing wages announced on July 1 will be within 1.5% of our projections.