The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking the public’s help on determining H-1B wage levels. This is the latest sign that the Biden administration doesn’t intend to abandon a Trump-era proposal to assign H-1B visas based on wages, as opposed to the current lottery system.
Issued on April 2, the request invites “interested parties” to provide “information on the sources of data and methodologies for determining prevailing wage levels covering employment opportunities that United States (U.S.) employers seek to fill with foreign workers on a permanent or temporary basis through certain employment-based immigrant visas or through H-1B, H-1B1, E-3 nonimmigrant visas.”
That information, the notice added, will inform the review of the Trump administration’s original proposal. Depending on how things go, the data received may result in the computation of prevailing wage levels “in a manner that more effectively ensures the employment of certain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers does not adversely affect the wages of U.S. workers similarly employed.”
Although the Biden administration has rolled back other H-1B rules established during the Trump administration, most notably the temporary H-1B ban, it has seemed far more amenable to the idea of visa selection based on higher wages. Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would prioritize visas based on wages, and give both the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor the ability to determine the appropriate wage levels.
This kind of prioritization would probably not have a huge impact on companies that utilize the H-1B visa to draw highly specialized talent from overseas, as they’re already prepared to pay extraordinary salaries for hard-to-find skills. However, it could decimate the bottom line of consulting and business-services firms that apply for many thousands of H-1B visas every year, then subcontract those H-1B workers to other companies. Higher wages would force those contractors to either pay significantly more and/or spike their denial rates.
In the meantime, anyone who wants to leave written comments about H-1B wage levels can head over to the Federal eRulemaking Portal and follow the instructions. The commenting period is scheduled to close on June 1.