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Live Abroad

Nov 30, 2005
Labor Certifications and the Ability to Pay Wages
- Atty. Robert Reeves Email this article

U.S. employers sponsoring their employees for a green card must prove the business has the ability to pay the prevailing wage to the beneficiary. The employer must prove that it has the ability to pay the wage from the time the labor certification is filed until the beneficiary obtains permanent residency status. Employers sponsoring nurses or physical therapists only have to prove ability to pay wages from the time they file the immigrant visa petition because labor certifications are not required for these categories.        


The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently become more aggressive in evaluating these visa petitions, especially in regards to the employers ability to pay the prevailing wage. In a published memorandum, the USCIS provided clarification and instructions concerning ability to pay determinations. To establish ability to pay, the employer must satisfy one of the following tests: (1) Net Income Test - the petitioner’s net income in the year of filing is equal to or greater than the proffered wage; (2) Net Assets Test – the petitioner’s net current assets in the year of filing are equal to or greater than the proffered wage; or (3) Actual Payment Test - the petitioner paid the beneficiary a salary equal to or greater than the proffered wage in that year and can be proven by pay stubs, W-2 forms or quarterly tax returns (Form DE-6).


In order to prove the ability to pay, the employer needs to submit either the company’s income tax returns, annual reports or audited financial statements for the relevant years.  Where the petitioner employs more than 100 workers, the USCIS may accept a statement from the company’s chief financial officer. The employer can also submit profit and loss statements, bank account records, credit lines, assets or other financial records. Personal financial information from an employer may be submitted where the petitioner operates as a sole proprietor or partnership.


If the employer cannot show that it has the ability to pay the wage, the immigrant worker will not be able to get their green card. Determining whether the employer has the ability to pay the beneficiary the required wage is complicated.  If you have questions regarding this issue, you would be well advised to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who is experienced in employment-based immigration law.





Author's Note:  The analysis and suggestions offered in this column do not create a lawyer-client relationship and are not a substitute for the individual legal research and personalized representation that is essential to every case. 

 Atty. Reeves has represented clients in numerous landmark immigration cases that have set new policies regarding INS action and immigrants' rights.  His many successes have been published in Interpreter Releases, Immigration Briefings and AILA Monthly which are nationally recognized immigration periodicals widely read by immigration lawyers, State Department and immigration officials.  His cases are also cited in test books as a guide to other immigration practitioners.  His offices are located in Pasadena, San Francisco, Beijing and Makati City.  Telephone: (2) 759-6777 E-mail: Website:

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