Volume 3, Number 1

March 14, 2006

The Communiqué is an on-going series of messages to departments who sponsor international scholars at Boston University. With the Communiqué, we offer information that helps in the processing of scholar immigration-related documents and petitions. We hope you find the Communiqué a useful tool in working with the ISSO and in successfully hiring and sponsoring scholars from around the world. Past Communiqués are archived on our web site. Click here to go to the archive page.

Significant Delays and Changes in H-1B Prevailing Wage Determinations

The Department of Labor (DOL) began using the results of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics wage survey to determine prevailing wages for all H-1B petitions in January 2006. The new survey included more occupation titles than in past years. State Workforce Agencies (SWA) — the offices that make prevailing wage determinations — have been directed to use these new titles which more narrowly define certain occupations such as chemist, mechanical engineer, and medical scientist rather than the broader “scientist” titles they have used in the past. As a result, prevailing wage determinations for academic positions at the Boston University are much higher than ever before. For example, in 2005, a Research Associate in the medical sciences field requiring a minimum of a doctorate and no additional training or experience was determined to be a “Life Scientist” under the DOL occupation titles with a level one prevailing wage of $27,082. Effective January 2006, the SWA is assigning a “Medical Scientist” wage to same Research Associate position in medical sciences which now mandates a minimum wage of $46,862.

In addition, the local SWA is currently taking four (4) weeks to review and assign prevailing wages which is delaying the processing of every H-1B application.

This change in assignments of occupation titles and the significant increase in wages is adversely affecting universities throughout the Boston area as well as institutions of higher education around the country. Various professional associations have begun advocacy efforts to ensure that federal agencies understand the negative implications the new wage structure will have on research and teaching in the U.S. and to suggest amenable solutions. Boston University is joining in these advocacy efforts. In the meantime, while we advocate for temporary relief, we must caution all Boston University departments, centers and research units that delays in the H-1B processing are inevitable. In addition, we may need to strategize on the use of other immigration classifications to facilitate the employment of international scholars. In some cases, departments may need to find additional salary funding to accommodate these higher wage determinations to proceed with new H-1 petitions.

Because of current wage processing concerns and long processing times at USCIS service centers, it is more important than ever before that departments submit H-1B requests to the ISSO at minimum of six months prior to the start date of employment or extension start date. Should your department choose to pay the USCIS’s premium processing fee of $1000, you must submit the H-1B request at least three months prior to that start date.

We will keep you informed of any further developments.

Your ISSO Scholar Services Team

Jeanne E. Kelley

James Leck
Associate Director

Jill M. Ostrowski
International Scholar Advisor