Despite the Trump administration’s temporary ban on the H-1B (and speculation that the ban could become permanent), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving ahead with a proposed revamp of the visa. Although the details remain largely under wraps, it’s clear that chances could include a tighter focus on the definition of “specialty occupation,” which is the ostensible reason the visa exists.
In other words, it’s potentially a big inflection moment. And in that spirit, it’s well worth looking at the U.S. cities that pay out the highest salaries for H-1B workers, since they (and the companies within them) might have to deal with a seismic shift over the next year or two, once DHS unveils the updated guidelines.
Data from this list comes from the H-1B Salary Database, which indexes the Labor Condition Application (LCA) disclosure data from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). Here’s the breakdown of top U.S. cities by H-1B salary; keep in mind that this includes all H-1B roles, such as medical, in addition to tech:
That the cities that constitute Silicon Valley dominated this list (despite the inclusion of non-tech H-1Bs) should come as no surprise to pretty much anybody. Technology firms in the Bay Area are famous for their use of the H-1B visa, both directly and via subcontractors and “business services” firms. Just look at how many H-1B workers Facebook and Google file for, in addition to Apple and the other tech giants:
As the tech industry continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and more tech companies (including Facebook and Twitter) embrace the concept of a remote workforce, it will be interesting to see if this Bay Area cluster of H-1B workers shifts noticeably in coming years as these companies’ employees disperse.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s reliance on the H-1B explains why Redmond, WA has such a high concentration of workers on the visa. The H-1B prevalence in the New York towns of Greenwich and Yorktown Heights could be tied very heavily to fintech, which has been recruiting all kinds of technologists in droves in order to create the next generation of financial-services and trading apps.
Critics of the H-1B system point out that these average salaries are skewed, and that consulting and business-services firms typically pay their H-1B subcontractors quite a bit lower than the specialists who arrive via direct application. What’s key in this city breakdown, though, is that the nation’s biggest tech hubs are also some of the biggest users of the H-1B—not exactly shocking. Whatever the outcome of the election, keep an eye on whether this situation remains stable.