People have several questions when it comes to living and working abroad. Onebig question that comes back over and over again is “how much can I earn in the country in which I intend to live?”. This is an important concern for most people, whether they are deciding to study or accept a job offer abroad because it directly impacts living conditions. In order to make sound decisions it is therefore important to understand how much you are likely to earn.
Let’s begin by recalling that the US is made of 50 different states. Each state has its own laws and regulations. However, there is also the federal law which is overarching and governs all the states. In that light, the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was set in 2009 and has not changed since. Meanwhile, each state can set its own minimum wage so long as it is equal to or higher than the federal minimum wage. For example, the minimum wage in the state of New York is currently set at $12.50, which significantly higher than the federal minimum wage.
How is the minimum wage set?
The law that determines the minimum wage in the US is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees must be paid the minimum wage or higher. In order to increase the minimum wage, Congress must pass a bill which the President signs into law. This bill is effectively an amendment to the prevailing law.
When he became the 46th US President, Joe Biden had plans of increasing the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2025. There was an attempt to realise this in early 2021 but it did not get Senate approval. Whether the federal minimum wage will be raised to $15 by 2025 still needs to be seen.
How does the minimum wage affect full-time students?
If you are planning to work while studying full-time in the US, there is a Full-time Student Program for full-time students employed in retail or service stores, agriculture, or colleges and universities. The employer that hires students can obtain a certificate that enables the student to be paid a minimum of 85% of the minimum wage. However, after graduation, you will become subject to the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
Minimum wage by State for 2021
There are currently 29 states and D.C that have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum, and 21 states have a minimum wage in line with the federal minimum. In 2021, the highest state minimum wage in the US $14.00 per hour in California:
New Hampshire: $7.25
New Jersey: $12.00
New Mexico: $10.50
New York: $12.50
North Carolina: $7.25
North Dakota: $7.25
Rhode Island: $11.50
South Carolina: $7.25
South Dakota: $9.45
West Virginia: $8.75
Worried about transferring money to the US?
If you are currently in the process of preparing a move and are constantly sending money to the US, you no longer need to worry about paying excessive fees. In the past, the only available options were bank transfers and exchange services. Banks and exchange services charge high fees which significantly increases the costs of transfers. On top of that they also add a markup to the exchange rate that they change, which further reduces the amount made available for you in the other country. Be very wary of these types of transfers.
Fortunately, Tamsey offers an efficient low cost service available directly from their mobile application, which is downloadable on Android as well as iOS from the PlayStore and AppStore, respectively. With this app or on their website, you send money to the US and your money will be available within less than 2 days (usually less).