As we enter 2020, the H-1B visa program is potentially on the verge of some big changes. The denial rates for H-1B petitions are rising at many companies (particularly consulting and “business services” firms) as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) subjects applications to more stringent review. Other decisions by the Trump administration, meanwhile, could change everything from the H-1B lottery to whether the H-4 EAD (which allows the spouses of H-1B employees to work) will continue to exist.
Amidst all that, it’s worth asking how much some of the nation’s biggest tech companies are paying their H-1B workers. Fortunately, we can consult the H-1B Salary Database, which continually indexes H-1B records. We took a look at Google, Apple, and others:
Keep in mind that the average H-1B salary is $89,779. We arrived at that number via an analysis of a massive dataset of H-1B data for fiscal year 2019 provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, which breaks down over 412,425 H-1B cases (and also reveals the “secondary entities” where primary employers might send H-1B workers as subcontractors). The average “overall” tech salary stands at $93,244.
(Some H-1B salaries are also quite a bit higher. For example, Facebook is reportedly paying its vice president of global affairs and communications, Nick Clegg, roughly $656,000 per year. A former British deputy prime minister, Clegg might also receive compensation beyond his salary—Facebook is known for its perks and benefits.)
So at first glance, it seems that the nation’s largest tech companies are paying their H-1B employees quite a bit more than the average not only for H-1B workers, but for tech professionals overall. This seems aligned with the fundamental mission of the H-1B program, which is to give companies the opportunity to hire highly specialized talent from overseas that they couldn’t otherwise find in the United States.
But wait! That’s not the whole story, obviously. Google, Facebook, and other major tech firms engage in quite a bit of subcontracting. For example, in 2019, Google hired 7,604 H-1B candidates directly, and outsourced an additional 889 (in total, Google has 8,493 H-1B visa holders working on its products stateside, according to our Department of Labor dataset). Take a look at this breakdown:
There’s every possibility that these subcontractors could be making far less than the “average” H-1B salaries at these tech companies. For example, Tata Consultancy Services pays its H-1B employees a median salary of $71,802, according to the H-1B Salary Database; Capgemini pays an average of $85,200. But as the federal government begins to crack down on H-1B subcontractors, it remains to be seen whether the larger tech companies will continue to heavily engage these outsourcing and business-services firms to fill their ranks.
“At least 12 companies that provide professional or IT services to other U.S. companies, including Accenture, Capgemini and others, had denial rates over 30 percent through the first three quarters of FY 2019,” stated a recent analysis (PDF) by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data. “Most of these companies had denial rates between 2 percent and 7 percent as recently as FY 2015.”
As the Trump administration continues to tweak its position on H-1Bs, it could end up having a seismic effect on the tech giants.