Misconceptions about hiring foreign nationals are unbridled in the U.S., and we could be to blame. As Americans, we remain to claim that we welcome all, but we have tendencies to print a social stain on our immigrants. This unfortunate societal stigma is rippling into our economy, and we’re right to be afraid. For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be working on shattering the negative stigma of immigrants in the U.S. workforce.
We often leave our immigrants with little confidence in their success and occupational ability. Their uncertainty is propelled by the Americanized idea that non-U.S. workers do not require a steep salary equivalent to our own citizens. Additionally, the too-common misconception of indentured servitude due to the H1-B program would be enough to put anyone off, employer, potential-employee, and onlooker combined.
“The H1-B Program is a glorified title for indentured servitude.”
An H1-B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows international employees to find jobs in the U.S. for special occupations for a specified amount of time. Think of H1-B as the infamous “work visa” you see often in pop culture. Merriam-Webster’s definition of an indentured servant is “a person who signs and is bound by [contract] to work for another for a specified time especially in return for the payment of travel expenses and maintenance.” In short, this means that this particular contracted person trades labor for freedom instead of fair wages. This should not be the notion we wish to impose on foreign workers.
However, if the candidate qualifies, the H1-B program requires employers to pay the actual wage or prevailing wage. Prevailing wage is what we are typically used to hourly, benefits, overtime, etc. The alternative, prevailing wage, is slightly more subjective. This allows employers to compensate a worker based on what they already pay other employees with like abilities, experience, and qualifications. This begs the question of how one may determine what is equal, especially if a said employer does not hold previously hired workers with that skillset.
It is easy to assume why H1-B candidates can misconstrue actual wages for indentured servitude. Nothing is set and stone or tangible.
Busting the myth:
If employers do not already have comparable employees to your skillset, you may ask them to scan online job hosting websites, such as Monster, Indeed, or Glass Door, for your job title. There, both of you can compromise on a median pay that you feel shows appropriate value proportion to your skillset.
The great news is that legally, your employer is required to pay you more than the actual and prevailing wage. With this being said, if your actual wage comes out to be lower than prevailing, your employer must match your payment to meet minimum requirements. Conclusively, USCIS lawfully requires employers to pay you at least minimum wage, and typically much more than even that.
Know your rights. If you’re working on an H1-B visa, know that you are legally allowed to ask for proper compensation without penalty to your job or your immigration status.