Skip to content

H-1B Department of Labor wage requirements

The University must pay the H-1B beneficiary the required wage, which the Department of Labor defines as the higher of 2 figures:

  • the “actual wage” rate OR
  • the “prevailing wage” rate

To comply with federal regulatory requirements, the appointing unit must include an Actual Wage Memorandum with each H Visa Request. A Prevailing Wage Intake Form is also necessary for any positions not covered by a collective bargaining agreement. See the H-1B Required Documents page for more information.

Actual Wage

The actual wage is the wage rate paid by the appointing unit to all other individuals with titles, qualifications, and duties similar to those of the H-1B beneficiary. The “appointing unit” is the most meaningful unit for comparison, whether a school/college, department, division, or program. When there are no other employees in the appointing unit with titles, qualifications, and duties similar to the H-1B beneficiary, the actual wage is the salary offered to the H-1B beneficiary.

In determining the actual wage, the appointing unit may consider objective factors including experience, education, job responsibility and function, specialized knowledge, and other legitimate business factors. The Actual Wage Memorandum must include sufficient detail so that a third party could understand how the actual wage was determined.

Prevailing Wage

The prevailing wage is the average wage rate paid by employers to similarly-employed workers in substantially comparable jobs in the geographic area of intended employment. For positions covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the prevailing wage is the wage minimum set by the CBA.

For positions not covered by a CBA, ISO performs a prevailing wage “self-determination” based on DOL guidance and wage data, as well as the Prevailing Wage Intake Form provided by the appointing unit and, when applicable, the recruitment ad for the position. The appointing unit must accurately describe the job’s minimum and essential job requirements, as well as its duties, in detail, so that ISO can make an accurate self-determination. ISO will submit a prevailing wage application to DOL in some cases to support permanent residence sponsorship or for compliance with prevailing wage requirements.

The DOL collects national salary wage data annually; therefore, prevailing wage amounts fluctuate from year to year. Campus departments preparing to extend the stay of an H-1B should anticipate the possibility that the prevailing wage may have increased since the previous H-1B petition was filed with USCIS.