H-1B Salaries at Google, Apple, Other Tech Giants Way Above Average

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.

37 Responses to “H-1B Salaries at Google, Apple, Other Tech Giants Way Above Average”

  1. The wage rules for H-1B and green card sponsorship are broken down into wage Levels I, II, III and IV, with Level III being the median. For software developers, the most common type of foreign worker on H-1B, the green card data show the following percentages of foreign workers at Levels I or II making below-median wages: Amazon 91%; Facebook 91%; and Google 96%. These firms, putatively in the vanguard of advanced technology and certainly in the vanguard in Capitol Hill lobbying regarding H-1B, are paying almost all of their foreign workers – ostensibly, the “best and brightest” – wages below the median for the given region.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) put out a report on the H-1B visa that discusses at some length the fact that the vast majority of H-1B temporary foreign workers are hired at the entry-level wage level. In fact, most are at “Level I”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who have a “basic understanding of duties and perform routine tasks requiring limited judgment”. Moreover, the GAO found that a mere 6% of H-1B temporary foreign workers are at “Level IV”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who are “fully competent”.

    This all belies the industry lobbyists’ claims that H-1B temporary foreign workers are hired because they’re experts that can’t be found among the U.S. workforce.

      • When industry and their lobbyists push the fallacy that H-1B temporary foreign workers are used because domestic workers lack the skills and experience, one would absolutely reasonably expect the vast majority of H-1B workers to be “fully competent”, i.e., Level IV. The description of “fully competent” for Level IV is defined and codified into law, not something that I just made up.

  2. The underpayment of H-1B workers is well-established fact, not rumor, anecdote or ideology. It has been confirmed by two congressionally-commissioned reports, and a number of academic studies, in both statistical and qualitative analyses. Underpayment of H-1B workers leads to depressed wages overall in the STEM fields that use these destructive visas, hurting domestic workers

    An employer survey conducted by the GAO (GAO, 2003) found that some employers readily admitted to paying H-1B foreign workers less than comparable Americans, but noted that they were nevertheless paying the legally required wage (i.e., the “prevailing wage”), thereby illustrating that the latter is indeed below the market wage.

    The GAO found that, “some employers said that they hired H-1B workers in part because these workers would often accept lower salaries than similarly qualified U.S. workers; however, these employers said they never paid H-1B workers less than the required wage.”[1]

    This jibes with a previous employer survey[2], commissioned by Congress, that found, “…H-1B workers in jobs requiring lower levels of IT skill received lower wages, less senior job titles, smaller signing bonuses, and smaller pay and compensation increases than would be typical for the work they actually did.”

    So two employer surveys, one by the government and the other commissioned by the government, had employers actually admitting to underpaying their H-1B foreign workers. And the GAO shows that the employers admit that the prevailing wage, the legal wage floor for H-1Bs, is a joke. The data in the paper shows the underpayment statistically as well.

    [1] H-1B Foreign Workers: Better Tracking Needed to Help Determine H-1B Program’s Effects on U.S. Workforce
    GAO-03-883, US General Accounting Office, Sept. 2003

    [2] Building a Workforce for the Information Economy.
    National Research Council. 2001.

    • Maha Guru

      Exactly! Rich greedy tech fights any H-1B reform to the end with able help from politicians of both parties. It should be more than 100K in the West and East and 100K in the MidWest. If these H-1B are so good, then shouldn’t they be getting that wage?

  3. Trump should look into throwing out those from India and China earning this high salary and sending it back to there country, and replace them with Americans who don’t have jobs which will strengthen American economy.. Trump is the bEST

    • If Trump was the best, he would have done that already. All it takes is for the CEOs of any of these companies to meet with Trump and Americans are thrown under the bus when it comes to H1B. Wake up and smell the coffee.

      • Trump has done a lot to curb the H1B. For one thing, he didn’t approve the large increase in H1B’s that regularly gets approved every year we had Clinton, Bush and Obama in the WH.

        Secondly, he requires the H1B’s to renew every year, instead of the customer 3 years, which means they spend about 2 months of every year working through the paperwork, and as a result, at least what I’ve seen, there were a lot that just gave up and bailed.

        Third, he ended the “insta” lottery in which most of the H1B’s would be scooped up by Tata and Infosys to be used to drive down wages across America. Now you actually have to apply for more than a rubber stamp, and a very high percentage is rejected.

        Give the man credit, he’s done more for the American tech worker than any President since we’ve had tech workers.

    • The high-salaried H-1B holders are NOT the problem. They provide the talent we lack; the foreign talent the H-1B is DESIGNED to attract. The beef we have with the H-1B program is that it is abused by sub-contractors that provide relatively low-paid programmers, testers, and support staff; the kind of work that does not require any special talent, but that an average college graduate (perhaps with a few years experience) can fulfill.

  4. Freddie Kern

    Wages are not the only measurement. And wages are determined by the category of the job and the title, which may not be reality. What is true all the time is that employers do not have to pay Social Security and Medicare on their taxes for these H1-Bs and also, they are like indentured people who will never move, never change jobs, never ask for more all three of these by their own personal decision. They are kept on infinite green card or citizenship promises and then when they get them, they find employers still prefer H1-Bs. Also, employers can totally ignore EEOC requirements. They can hire all the same race, sex, age, religion with no penalty. If you trace the diversity of tech from when H1-B were introduced and see diversity growth stopped and its the reason that unlike other professions, diversity is blocked. Ask your peers if they believe in equal opportunity, no bias in hiring. H1-Bs are hired with bias and never compete head to head with local talent for a job. We cannot say if we have a lack of local talent if they can never compete for that local position.

    • Ruturaj

      People on H1B do pay social security and Medicare, so there employer has to match it. Only students on F1 visa get exception for first 5 calendar years. First you need to understand the scale of this, how many people there are on H1B, do you think people working at top tier companies never ask for raise, bonus, stocks? Go check team blind.

      Also apply to Google and try getting a job there, tell them you will work for 50k annual salary, even then they won’t hire you.

      H1B holders can change job without losing there spot in green card line. Either way the line is so big for Indians that mostly they won’t get green card in there lifetime.

      About competing with local talent, get a job in better company, you will understand what talent is and how smart people are in companies like Google, Facebook etc.

      • “H1B holders can change job without losing there spot in green card line.”

        @Ruturaj, H-1B holders absolutely can lose their spot in the green card line if they change jobs. If they change jobs, they have to go through the PERM process again, risking getting rejected.

  5. I think salary data is wrong. H1-B employees pay 7.5% SS and Medicare Tax which they never going to get back. Also to get green card from H1-B is almost difficult and long way to wait. So your salary data should be 7.5% less. (i.e $140,000 less 7% = $130,200). If you compare with US Citizen or green card holder’s pay, than there is a less than average. Also they don’t get 401K benefit or retirement benefit. MY wife work with contract, she is not getting even paid vacation unlike other US workers. So please take those data into consideration.

  6. Employers are ready to take on H1B even after painful approval process, on top of compensation they have to spend additional $5000 year on year for H1B sponsorship.

    You agree or don’t agree, but the truth is that employers goes for H1B option because they don’t get local talent.

    • Local talent exists but most Americans can’t just pack up and move to the next opportunity like many of the H1B holders. Also, Americans have certain expectations that H1B holders do not. I don’t mind working extra hours but I am not interested in working 50 work weeks or more every week. But, the H1B holders that I work with have no problem doing that. I would rather work smarter than longer.

      • Why not? I moved for a better job 5 times in my life, and I would do that again. Sometimes you have to choose between a (better) job and where you want to live. Whichever way you make that choice, you OWN that choice.

      • viorel dragnea

        The truth is that most of the hiring managers are now Indian, and they will always hire only Indians, even for a good salary, and even when their company does not require them to hire H1Bs. (The Chinese hiring managers do the same)

        In effect the available hob market is small for non-Indians and non-Chinese. Add a little ageism in the mix, and it becomes really hard to find a job when you are non-Indian over 35.

  7. idreddy

    US is restricting entry of foreigners in many ways, but at the same time US supporting multiple ways and show who n cry on NRC/CAA?NPR introduced in India.

    US is Strictly ENFORCING ALL to follow and abide by rules. At the same time US authorities is encouraging and supporting unauthorized entry of ALL other Country terrorists into India,which is double speak against India,thinking that POOR INDIAN’s can bare the burnt from these terrorists.

  8. If the Govt. wants to keep highly talented, give all Ph.D.(earned in America) an automatic green card during graduation. That will reduce the total number of H1B here. Also, illegal immigrants work but H1Bs come with old parents who can not contribute towards the system but take from the system. They also take the better paying jobs, which will not help the local residents.

  9. What is % of H1B workers to total employees of tech Giants?

    Ball park number for apple is 3110/137000 = ~ 2.2%

    If only 2.2% are low paid H1B workers, who are the remaining 97.8% workforce Apple holds?

  10. Using the aggregate is not sufficient analysis, the better indication is basing this on comparative positions within these companies – something that the H1b databases are not able to provide because that info is not required or captured.
    Clearly, the LCA should include comparative positions within the organizations and the salaries associated with those.
    That will more clearly indicate the sort of abuse that is going on.
    Call your senators, congressman and the WH requesting that this info be mandated on any LCA for a new or transferred H1b visa.

  11. Richard

    Companies should have to prove they could not find American workers first before considering H1Bs. This visa is extremely abused and over used for companies paying American wages.

  12. Robert Heath

    And to top it off, to get in the H-1B pipeline with those employers, you have to pass scrutiny during a VERY LOW PAID STINT as an OPT workers, and chances are you will not graduate from the OPT apprenticeship program.

  13. Robert Heath

    To top it off, to get in the H-1B pipeline with those employers, you have to pass scrutiny during a VERY LOW PAID STINT as an OPT workers, and chances are you will not graduate from the OPT apprenticeship program.

  14. Joe the programmer

    I have an idea. Since employers claim that “we need H1B because we can not find equivalent domestic skilled workers”, lets have each H1B worker be paid by EDD (Employment Development Dept). EDD would be the, employer of records (An employer of record is an organization that serves as the employer for tax purposes while the employee performs work at a different company.) Then EDD would charge Google and other H1B employers a comparative salary, take 30% off and only pay 70% to employee. EDD would then provide academic funds (from the revenue) to Americans for educational advancement which would eventually remove the very need (excuse) of not having domestic skilled worker. Recall employers say, we can not find “skilled workers.”

  15. Prajay Madhavan

    I had worked for an American company on their offshore location in India and can comment on some other scam where American workers are fleeced.

    Job Code Manipulation Scam
    This is a scam which is specifically made to deceive the department of Labor and to manipulate the data available. A person is hired to do a job with an official job description which does not match his skills.

    For example : A certain company “ABC corp” located in the USA needs an electronic engineer with 15 years experience to work on RF circuit design. However the HR in the USA makes a job opening for a software engineer and calls for applications. Yes you heard it right, “software engineer”. The job opening would require multiple random and impossible programming skills like expert in Cobol, Unix, Java and C++ with C# and so on. They call for multiple interview in the USA. They will never be able to find a talent in the US with that skill set as it is almost impossible to find such person anywhere in the world. Then they send that requirement to their office in India. The HR in India will now conduct an interview for an “electronics engineer” for RF circuit design. He is appointed after the selection process and assigned the responsibilities of RF Circuit design. However, the internal job records of the company would reflect that the guy in India is actually a software engineer working on Unix, Java, C# and so on. At the end of the project, the HR would then manipulate the job records to make it clean. The work done by the engineer in India would get attributed to another electronics engineer working in the USA (Most often a green card holder was already with the company for long, who is not talented but in good relations with the management and HR). Now this is possible as this is company’s internal information.They specifically do this to ensure that there is no trace of restricted technology like RF circuit design being sent out of the USA as most of it may be export controlled.

    [The fall-out]

    1. An electronics engineer in the USA who was actually qualified to get the job of an RF Circuit designer never gets the job and remains un-employed.

    2. The fake green card holding engineer in the USA gets the credits and gets bonuses.

    3. The engineer in India is paid a lower wage and gets no bonuses. He is given a meagre hike, but he takes it as he is from a poor background and has no guts to fight.

    This scam is pulled out very secretly and the Department of Labor will have no way to find this out as the records of the company are all clean. The management and the HR in USA and India has to be involved in this to pull it off. The engineers at both locations are completely un-aware of this scam.