With the incoming Biden administration, the H-1B and other visas will likely undergo another round of changes. In the meantime, it’s worth looking at the cities that pay the highest average salaries to H-1B workers, if only because these numbers could shift along with those new policies.
This city and salary data comes from the H-1B Salary Database, which indexes the Labor Condition Application (LCA) disclosure data from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). When you look at the list, keep in mind that this breakdown includes all H-1B roles, such as medial, in addition to tech. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the nation’s largest tech hubs (such as Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and New York City) also offer some of the highest average H-1B salaries in the nation:
The prevalence of Texas cities such as Austin, Houston, Irving and Plano is worth calling out. For starters, consulting firms such as Tata have multiple offices in the state; second, Austin and Houston have seen an uptick in tech-industry activity over the past few years, particularly Austin. And where you see more tech companies, you tend to see a rise in H-1B usage—accompanied by higher H-1B salaries.
And those salaries might change over the next few years. As part of the Trump administration’s recent, sweeping reform of the H-1B system, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued an Interim Final Rule that addressed the visa’s minimum wage. The DOL faulted the current H-1B wage structure for allowing companies to substantially underpay specialists on the H-1B visa, undercutting U.S. workers in the process.
“While the prevailing wage levels the [DOL] sets in the H-1B, H-1B1, E-3, and PERM programs are meant to protect against the adverse effects the entry of immigrant and nonimmigrant workers can have on U.S. workers, they do not accomplish that goal—and have not for some time,” reads the runup to the rule. “For starters, the [DOL] has never offered a full explanation or economic justification for the way it currently calculates the prevailing wage levels it uses in these foreign labor programs.”
If those wage changes stick (which is an open question, given the government transition), it would have a huge impact on business-services and consulting firms that apply for lots of H-1B workers that are subcontracted to other firms. It could also force big tech companies, which are some of the biggest utilizers of the H-1B, to reconsider how they hire. Most of all, though, it would probably shift the average H-1B salary in most of the above-listed cities. Stay tuned for what Biden’s administration may or may not do in this regard.