One of the first steps in filing a PERM application is obtaining a prevailing wage determination (PWD). The PWD is the minimum wage that an employer can pay an employee for a particular job in a particular region. The PWD is typically obtained from the Department of Labor (DOL). Using different wage data available online, employers can identify an appropriate prevailing wage for a particular position/title.
When examining the wage offered by the employer for a prospective position, DOL relies on the following to make its prevailing wage determination: the nature of the job offer, the area of intended employment, and the job duties for workers similarly employed. After reviewing an employer’s Form ETA-9141 (the form completed by the employer to make the initial request for the prevailing wage), DOL will respond with its PWD. The DOL is currently taking approximately nine months under current processing times to make its PWD for PERM applications. This is a particularly difficult hurdle for many applicants and employers because the applicant may not be able to maintain nonimmigrant status through the lengthy PERM process. Or, if the applicant is not in the United States, U.S. businesses needing workers may be further harmed by the significant wait times of the first step of the PERM process.
The prevailing wage determination for PERM applications is essential because it ensures that the employee will get paid the minimum wage for the prospective PERM job. Since the PERM application is a forward-looking process — the start to end of the process can take as much as three to four years to receive permanent residence under current backlogs — the prevailing wage sets in stone the minimum wage the employer must pay an employee.