How much can H-1B visa holders expect to earn at the nation’s top tech companies?
In some cases, quite a bit: according to new data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), H-1B holders at Apple earn an average annual salary of $139,000. That places the tech behemoth slightly ahead of Google, where those with the visa make an average of $132,000, and Microsoft, where they can pull down $126,000.
Cisco ($121,000) and Amazon ($115,000) round out the top five on this list of highest-paying H-1B sponsors. That’s significantly higher than the average salary for all visas issued in 2016, which was $91,000.
However, tech firms weren’t the companies with the most H-1B visa petitions approved by the Department of Homeland Security. In 2016, business consultancy firms such as Cognizant, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, and Accenture racked up the most successful petitions. (It’s worth noting that those consultancy firms also paid out far lower salaries to their H-1B visa holders than the major tech companies.)
That data backs up one of the core complaints about the H-1B program: visas overwhelmingly go to IT consultancy and outsourcing companies. Overall, some 4,000 companies applied for H-1B visas last year, and 20 companies were responsible for roughly 37 percent of approvals; eight of the top ten companies were IT consultancies.
Earlier this year, President Trump issued an executive order tasking the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State with reviewing current H-1B policy. During an April event in Wisconsin, Trump said that such visas should be given to “the most skilled and highly paid applicants, and they should never be used to replace Americans.”
As part of that “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, USCIS plans on engaging in a number of “listening sessions” with employers and workers. The first session, conducted in late July, featured 760 callers.
The executive order isn’t the first time that the federal government has attempted to address fundamental issues in the H-1B system. U.S. Senate bill 2266, for example, tried to prioritize H-1B distribution by applicants’ skills, degrees, proposed wages, and so on; that bill hasn’t moved since its introduction in late 2015. Other bills have attempted to restrict the ability of applicants to displace those currently employed. In any case, widespread changes to current legislation have remained elusive, enraging critics to no end.
Many tech companies insist that capping the H-1B program won’t resolve some longstanding issues with sourcing tech talent. “While a blanket reduction in foreign workers seems popular on the surface, it does not address the core issue facing the U.S. today, we do not have enough technology workers and things are only going to get worse,” Joe Vacca, CMO of talent-development firm Revature, wrote in an emailed statement to Dice earlier this year. “Universities cannot adjust to the rapid changes that are occurring in technology, the private sector must bridge that gap and train the next generation of U.S. technology workers.”
But altering the country’s educational pipeline is a long-term project. The big question for the immediate future: if the federal government pushes reform, will it radically change which companies petition for H-1B workers? And how will that affect U.S.-based tech pros?