H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative for Engineers, Leads

Ever wanted to know how much H-1B holders make per year? Developer Swizec Teller, who is about to apply for an H-1B visa, took data from the U.S. Department of Labor and visualized it in a series of graphs that break down H-1B salaries on a state-by-state basis.

Teller found that the average engineer with an H-1B makes $87,000 a year, a good deal higher than developers ($74,000) and programmers ($61,000) with the same visa. “Don’t call yourself a programmer,” he half-joked on Twitter.

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In California, the 9,466 engineers who held H-1B visas in 2014 made an average annual salary of $103,120. That far surpassed every state in the union with the exception of Washington state, where engineers came close with an average salary of $102,904.

Architects, consultants, managers, administrators, and leads with H-1Bs can likewise expect six-figure annual salaries, depending on the state and company. Teller’s site is well worth checking out for the interactive graphs, which he built with React and D3.js.

The debate over H-1Bs is an emotional one for many tech pros, and research into the visa’s true impact on the U.S. labor market wasn’t helped by the U.S. Department of Labor’s recent decision to destroy H-1B records after five years. “These are the only publicly available records for researchers to analyze on the demand by employers for H-1B visas with detail information on work locations,” Neil Ruiz, who researches visa issues for The Brookings Institution, told Computerworld after the new policy was announced in late 2014.

What Teller’s graphs demonstrate, however, is that the number of H-1B workers in the U.S. has increased over the past two years, even as their salaries (as a national average) have dipped slightly during that period.

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Image: Swizec

51 Responses to “H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative for Engineers, Leads”

  1. Prasad Joshi

    Thats really weird. I am in India and if you see, most of the H1-B visas are applied by body shops and they don’t pay beyond 70K.Yes, even companies like Wipro,TCS,Infy don’t pay beyond 70K.

  2. Mister Do!

    They forgot to mention these are projected figures for the year 2050. They must be because they certainly don’t reflect current salaries.

    Do they really think we’re not aware this is yet more propaganda?

  3. Nightcrawler

    Besides a job title, what in the world is the difference between an “engineer,” a “developer,” and a “programmer”? All of them do the same thing: Spit out code like machines all day long.

    • Bob Johnson

      True, but engineer has always implied more education, more work tasks (architecture, analysis, design), even if the engineer has the same degree as a developer or programmer. Developer implies performing more tasks (analysis, spec. writing, etc.) than just the ‘code jockey’ programmer.

    • As an engineer most of what I spit out is documentation. Design specs, tech specs, test specs coding actually occupies very little of my time. When I was leading a few other engineers all I did was document and attend meetings. All my lead does in my current job is attend meetings.

  4. So sad the American government and companies involved are selling the American workers down the river. Both parties and the democrat in the WH are in collusion on this. There is NOT 1 reason why Americans cant fill these positions, it is all a lie that someone overseas brings a talent or an education we don’t already have here in abundance. Typical Washington propaganda.

    • I completely disagree. Engineering is a tough discipline, and many American people simply don’t want to go down that career path. Finance and law school pay MUCH better in the long run than engineering – we’re talking 3/4x at least. I got my MS at UCLA and in most classes Americans were a minority. A quick walk to the School of Business had that percentage reverted. In my company when there’s an opening for a software engineer 70/80% of the applicants are non American.
      For example it’s much easier for an engineer to get a green card (as you know the company which sponsors you has to post your job for a month and report all American citizen who applied, with details on their interviews and reasons why the green card applicant has better skills) than for someone in finance. Actually is close to impossible to get a green card in finance because most applicants fail the one month job posting stage – tons of better qualified American citizens apply.
      I do agree with other comments that body shops company should be banned from filing H1B – they saturate the market with dubious qualified engineers who end up working on CRUD applications.

      • Ὀρέστης

        Stefano, how then do you explain Americans with advanced engineering degrees being shed by companies in favor of H1B holders? We have already gone down that career path only to be sidelined because of the mistaken belief that our work is more expensive than the H1B holder. It is not. The sad truth is age discrimination and the forced “diversification” of those companies. Old white men need not apply.

  5. Bottom line… Americans get the s–t end of the stick. That’s the long and short of it, period!! This was a losing battle right from the gitgo.

    This is now a very evolved, sophisticated and matured machine where business, YET AGAIN, comes out on top, as does, YET AGAIN, immigration lawyers, and YET AGAIN, business and immigration law lobbies win.

    It’s all about the money folks!! Politicians / Washington, DC have been and will continue to turn a deaf ear to Americans!!

  6. Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, we have a shortage of Americans who have the specific skillsets that these people are bringing. About 90% of Oracle Developers are Indians who are here on H1-B Visas. I am a recruiter and my preference would be to hire Americans for open positions (not only for the good of the country, but also to avoid paying the high costs of sponsoring an H1-B for a green card in the future, which can cost $15,000+ when all is said and done). However, we are not doing a good job as a country in producing many of the technical skillsets our corporations are seeking. We are very strong on the “design” and the “interface” side, but unfortunately, most young Americans don’t view cranking out code, etc. as something they want to do, thus are not pursuing Developer roles. It is an unfortunate fact of life that I see every day. Until we get back to being good at Science/Math, etc. as a society and kids are interested in pursuing fields in Engineering, this problem will persist. Companies have to get the work done one way or the other, so are going to continue to hire H1-B’s until they have other options, unfortunately…….

    • TCSwecandoanything

      So, why are there so many stories about IT shops outsourcing existing jobs to Indian IT shops? I saw it first hand where many IT jobs were eliminated only to be replaced by TCS H1-B employees. In most cases it was a one for one swap. System Administrators, Developers, Architects and yes even Oracle DBA /developers. A year later and some of these folks are still looking for jobs. Sad.

    • This is a load of BS. Having been unemployed not so far back after a layoff I applied for a bunch of jobs I could have easily done. But I didnt have 3 years or 5 years of whatever specific skill they were looking for so I never even received a form letter reply from 99% of them. I had been a software engineer for 22 years at the time. Wife went to 9 months of programming school for C#. I see stuff from recruiters all the time, wish I could find a C# programmer. Know how many were interested in her? None. Our schools put out plenty of people perfectly capable of doing a job, but everyone wants experience. Guess what those people are already working. Until businesses take people who have shown they are capable but have no experience this wont change. But they dont want Americans. Watch this, its a youtube video explaining exactly how to NOT hire an American for that job you want to sponsor a greencard for. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCbFEgFajGU

    • I am an experienced Oracle developer currently on H4. I get calls from employers but knowing my status none of them are ready to sponsor H1b. First question asked is status! I don’t think employers prefer H1bs. They try max to offer jobs to US citizens or people who already have H1b!

    • BS – I know plenty of Americans including me, who got replaced by Indians. When I apply for job I don’t even get a rejection. Back in the summer, one company was offering me $35,000 annual for a programming/developer job. My daughter is a chemical engineer graduated from major American University and can’t get a job. “Cranking out code” is part and parcel of “dssign” and “interface”, Companies don’t want to hire Americans, because they want slaves and yes men to work for them. Indians make great slaves until they get their green card…

      • Chris Chandler

        There’s no shortage of skilled Americans, but a shortage of American companies that want to pay them. Indians aren’t smarter, definitely aren’t more innovative or creative, and have you ever seen an Indian that can write a paragraph in English, without making all sort of typos? Accuracy is not their top priority, and they’re not quick to admit mistakes. Try to point out their typos and they’ll tell you that YOUR English is bad, although it’s your native language. It’s not hard to find them posting educational videos on youtube, where it’s obvious their lack of fluency in English makes them wrongly explain important concepts. Yet other Indians feel obligated to tell each other how smart they are, so they wind up learning things wrong, and spreading the wrongness around.

        You never see Asians do that.

        I think it will eventually balance out as more companies realize that outsourcing is usually the best way to get a buggy prototype instead of a final product, but it could take another 500 years.

        • Chris,
          you make a dumb argument. If english is not their native language then they can possibly struggle with it correct? Judging ITiens,scientists, etc by their english is an old Caucasian stunt. English is the medium of communication. Their english is good enough for the communication part especially when many come here and get their higher education at US universities. Unless you need word for word spelled out, that is your problem.

          Also generalizing with “Indians” as in all Indians are not smarter, innovative, creative reveals your level of competency in understanding basics.

          • “K” — why don’t you spell out your whole name Krishna and at least be honest about who you are and where you are coming from. And BTW, why don’t you go back to where you came from.

          • i work at a place where 50+ of them speak tamil on a business conference call… shameless.. and it is a fish market 10 AM to 4 PM with 2 hours lunch break in between… yes they do not work 8 to 5 but charge 40 hours a week.. freaking shameless parasites…

    • Americans gave up a long time ago. The older ones are shunned. The younger ones don’t have the “purple squirrel” myriad of skills demanded. Any American without the particular skill(s) required can pound sand — there’s no training any more. The whole contracting racket has been taken over by Indian people — I’ve never talked to or gotten an email from one who wasn’t an Indian. Regular American engineers and developers have seen so many layoffs that of course their children don’t follow the so called STEM path.

  7. America does not have the foresight to spend money on education, thus their workforce cannot meet demand for the jobs. I won’t blame the tech companies for hiring H1B workers. It is a very competitive field. Extremely skilled workers are crucial to their success.

    • American kids have seen how this game has evolved. They are smart enough to go into a different field … where there might actually be a chance at a real career that provides a livelihood until retirement. You are really naive, or just a management shill, if you think this is just about education.
      There are tons of educated and experienced people in the IT and engineering fields being displaced.
      Their kids, for sure, know what the score is.

      • If it is like you said that american kids choose other fields, then you are insinuating that it is by choice they give up the opportunities to go into IT and engineering. Technology has one of the lowest unemployment rate in US (less than 3% compared to ~6% in US) So naturally, the companies need to source qualified employees elsewhere in the world. The problem is American kids are not pursuing a career where demand is high. Parents are not guiding kids to take realistic looks at their future career. Schools are not doing enough to get kids interested in STEM fields.

        • Admit it. You’re a manager who consumes IT or engineering talent. You
          aren’t an IT worker or engineer. If you were in the trenches trying to deal
          with competing against H1B imports your attitude would be different.

  8. I am an experienced Oracle developer currently on H4. I get calls from employers but knowing my status none of them are ready to sponsor H1b. First question asked is status! I don’t think employers prefer H1bs. They try max to offer jobs to US citizens or people who already have H1b!

  9. Jon Lee Peddimore III

    Has anyone seen the American Born Middle Age Displaced Tech Worker Messiah that can lead
    our demographic back to the American Dream? Is it not in the best interest of national security to
    fill these jobs with Americans instead of foreigners? What, we don’t have the necessary skill sets? How about detaling these & then creating pathways to gaining them? How @ an initiative called ‘No American Tech Worker Left Behind! Is it so obvious

  10. john smith

    Corp USA will not be satisfied till they own everything. Corp USA has destroyed the incomes for the entire country systematically – good bye middle class.
    The only people left with good incomes, high finance, Doctors, lawyers, corp executives – jobs that can not be out sourced.

    Sure, export the work and import slave labor. India has trashed its own country and corporate USA exploits the desperation, bringing labor down in the USA. Describe financial slavery?

  11. john smith

    I actually had a manager (from India) tell the recruiter that he will not hire white people (meaning Americans). The tech company hiring was AT&T near Seattle.
    I saved that email (I still have it) and tried sending it to all news media outlets, my senator, and my congressman. No one of position, power, or authority was interested – connect the dots.

  12. Recruiter

    As a recruiter, I’ve noticed American tech workers are very greedy with their hourly rates. Why not try lowering your rate expectations/requirements to become more competitive and maybe you will attract more interests from companies? I mean, making $10-15 less per hour is still better then being unemployed and complaining about Indians “stealing your job”. Also, most Americans want companies to pay for travel expenses, lodging, taxis, airfare, meals etc. So you want this company to pay for your meals? If you weren’t working you would pay for your own food anyway so why try to force a company to pay this? I think Americans need to become less greedy & more competitive in their expectations and maybe you would see better results..

    • Concerned American

      You’re simply arguing post facto that Americans should accept the results of inshoring cheap labor. Americans wouldn’t be considered “greedy” by you or anyone else, when they’re getting what the market will bear. That they need to lower their asking rate for in-demand work is fully the consequence of being undercut by starving third-worlders who will take whatever they can get. Hardly a useful comparison to American labor, nor is it something we should strive for. American IT has already had very low unemployment (2-3%) for more than a decade, yet wages have been stuck in neutral throughout that time. It’s time we stopped allowing US employers to rig the labor market to suit themselves and let in-demand skillsets garner the wages they can demand. Like a real labor market is supposed to do.

    • “Why not try lowering your rate expectations/requirements to become more competitive and maybe you will attract more interests from companies? I mean, making $10-15 less per hour is still better then being unemployed and complaining about Indians “stealing your job”.

      Maybe we should lower our standards and work for minimum wage? We are highly trained professionals with skillsets that take lifetime to acquire competing against foreigners with fake skills. These Indians don’t have anything to lose. If they get canned, they just remove it from their resume and start over. We have our reputation and careers on a line. If I lie and get caught it will follow me my entire life.

      $10-$15 hours an hour is $30,000 per year. That’s a lot of money you want me to forgo. We are not talking about a million dollar salaries here. We are talking about people with lives and families who had invested time and money into their careers competing against single men who took a training course in a foreign country on “how to fake your way into American market”

    • Recruiter, so we might better put your comments in perspective, what firm do you work for?
      Do you recruit Americans to work here in Ameriac?
      Or do you recruit visa holders to come to America to work?

  13. Dear sir
    My daughter who is finishing her BTech in electrical engineering by May and she may visit USA in b1b2visa .will she be able to find a job in any of the companies .can you please guide us in getting a job here .can you send the address for applying for a job here in USA

      • Stimpy

        “Give me your tired, your poor,
        Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
        The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
        Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
        I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

        For those of you born in this great land? You’re screwed. The unemployment
        line forms over there. You are now the wretched refuse of our homegrown politicians. Don’t you love it?

  14. Southern California Edison is laying off several hundred employees and replacing them with H-1B visa holders. Here’s a link to an article in Computerworld about the situation: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2879083/southern-california-edison-it-workers-beyond-furious-over-h-1b-replacements.html

    Edison has done this in the past: laying off qualified Americans and bringing in lower cost H-1Bs while saying local talent is not available.

  15. Router.Maestro

    The H-1B visa is the most-abused accommodation requested by and given to U.S. employers, who SAY they just “somehow” can’t find the same equally-qualified US-born worker to hire, despite there being thousands available in the U.S. workforce. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a shortage of US tech workers; study after study documents and confirms this fact.

    The shortage occurs when employers cannot find a worker AT THE PRICE THEY WANT TO PAY. If employers were not able to piss and moan to their Apologists in Congress for the ability to hire a foreigner “fresh off the boat” at a cheap price, the equivalent graph above for American workers actually doing the same work would likely show a mean $125,000 or perhaps even greater. And AMERICANS would be supported, and have a job that actually reflected the true worth of the work they were doing, instead of the FALSE labor market that exists and is perpetrated by incorrectly granting H-1B visas.

    The H-1B visa is SUPPOSED to give employers access to workers who CANNOT be readily found among the U.S. workforce, such a Ph.D. in Science or Engineering, who is also a J.D. H-1B was NOT created to hire your everyday, run-of-the-mill Network Engineer or Sys Admin. However, THAT ability is what many cheap employers whine to their complicit supporters in Congress for … instead of paying the going rate they should pay!