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White House Parsing Wage Rule for H-1B, Other High-Skill Workers

Sept. 17, 2020, 2:03 PM

An interim final rule that would change how the Department of Labor determines appropriate wage levels for high-skilled guest workers is under consideration at the White House’s regulatory office.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs received the new regulation (RIN:1205-AC00) from the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration on Wednesday, and its review is generally the last step before the proposal will be published.

Though specific details are scant, the new regulation targets prevailing wage rates for H-1B visas, H-1B1 visas for guest workers in specialty occupations from Chile and Singapore, and E-3 specialty occupation workers from Australia. Currently, there are four tiers of wages that an employer must pay to high-skilled guest workers, and the appropriate wage rate is determined by the job and region where the visa holder will be employed.

The temporary final rule is part of the Trump administration’s latest push to overhaul programs that bring in foreign workers for specialty occupations. A regulation that would amend which jobs qualify for high-skilled H-1B visas, and how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will define an employment relationship, is also under OIRA review.

In June, a senior White House official told reporters on a press call that the administration had directed the DOL to “clean up” how the agency calculates H-1B wages. Specifically, the agency should set the prevailing wage floor at the 50th percentile, the current “Level 3" minimum wage, so that guest workers will be in the upper half of average earnings for their given occupation.

By making these changes, the U.S. would ensure the “best and the brightest” come to work in the U.S., while also “maximizing the opportunity for Americans to get jobs,” he said.

Representatives for the DOL didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional information on the rule.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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