The Major Tech Hub Filing for the Most H-1B Visas Isn’t Silicon Valley

The nation’s largest tech hubs are also the hungriest for H-1B workers, according to an analysis of recent visa filings. Although the Trump and Biden administrations have proposed radical overhauls to the H-1B, substantially changing such a deeply entrenched system could prove a difficult task given the sheer number of visa workers involved.

For H-1B data, we’re relying on the H-1B Salary Database, which indexes the Labor Condition Application (LCA) disclosure data from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). Using it, we can break down not only the cities with the most H-1B filings, but also their average H-1B salaries:

New York City tops this list by a substantial margin, and with good reason: In addition to local tech companies, the metropolis hosts other industries that heavily leverage the H-1B, including medicine and finance. San Francisco and the cities of Silicon Valley take up multiple slots on this list, thanks in large part to the local tech giants that apply for many thousands of H-1B visas per year. Seattle also has a prominent ranking due to H-1B usage at companies such as Microsoft and Amazon.

Up-and-coming tech hubs such as Houston, Atlanta, and Austin also utilize a large number of H-1B visas, although not all of these are necessarily tech-focused. The average H-1B salaries in these cities is also significantly lower than in the well-established tech hubs.

The Trump administration spent four years attempting to overhaul the H-1B system. Back in 2018, for example, Trump’s DHS proposed a new H-1B lottery system that would favor those with advanced degrees. And in 2020, Trump also pushed for an outright ban on the visa, stating that all available jobs should go to Americans left unemployed by the pandemic-related downturn.  

As a result of the Trump administration’s efforts, the denial rate for H-1B petitions for initial employment rose from 6 percent during fiscal year 2015 to 29 percent through the second quarter of fiscal year 2020. Critics of the H-1B system cheered the shift; the visa was originally intended to help companies bring in highly specialized talent unavailable in the U.S., they argued, not give those companies the ability to import lots of cheaper labor. 

Consulting and business-services firms, which are routinely accused of abusing the system to import non-specialized workers from overseas, were hard-hit by the Trump administration’s moves. Perhaps some of those firms took hope in the incoming Biden administration; however, Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 features language that would prioritize visas based on wages, an echo of Trump’s policy. 

No matter how the system is reformed (or left relatively untouched) in coming years, though, it’s clear from the data that the H-1B is well-entrenched within the nation’s largest tech hubs, and that policy changes might require years to fully take hold.  

8 Responses to “The Major Tech Hub Filing for the Most H-1B Visas Isn’t Silicon Valley”

  1. It is obvious that these big hubs in Information Technology, healthcare and finances are hiring more and more H1Bs. Especially the Big Tech companies, they need to maintain the high levels of productivity they are showing year after year. All data is showing that in the big IT companies the productivity is at its highest ever, revenues skyrocketing, prestige of these companies doesn’t get harmed for hiring H1Bs and IT unemployment is lower than ever. It would be stupid not to hire more foreign talent and Big Tech executives know it.

    • Sunjip

      And let me guess, the majority of the ‘top talent’ just so happens to come from a particular ‘developing’ country. In addition, the majority recruiting these ‘highly-skilled’ professionals, just so happen to be outsourcing chop shops from this very country.

  2. Jake_Leone

    The provisions to either raise the minimum H-1b salary and/or to the amendment to change to a salary based allocation of H-1b visas. Will never see the light of day.

    And the reason is that no one, with money, wants to pay for those 2 changes.

    And that’s the problem with career politician in our so-called Democracy. The same problem happens in other democratic countries (see White Tiger for a sick example of this).

    We already had an opportunity to change to a salary based allocation of H-1b visas. Biden nixed it, cause Trump said it first. Biden could have kept the implementation, but chose not too. The only credible challenge was by non-profits, and a simple change (allocate a percentage of H-1b visas by the old method, to non-profits) could have fixed that issue.

    And despite pleas and letters from Democratic and Republican Senators (who are experts on these immigration issues) to keep these provisions. Apparently they should have included a blank check in the letter in order for Biden to look at and automatically agree with the letter.

    Raising the minimum H-1b salary floor is 20 years overdue. It should al least be 110k/yr right now, based upon consumer inflation. Instead it is stuck at the pre-millenial 60k/yr.

    So Biden has returned us to the conditions we had during the slow, anemic, recovery. That recovery saw India build a 200 billion dollar per year service outsourcing industry, while the U.S. struggled with the slowest recovery in history.

    The reality is, we should be limiting the Green Card retry to 2, and requiring that companies openly advertise Green Card positions (on their website, or all (say up to 10) free websites). Facebook admitted to Federal Investigators that it finds 30x more local STEM/IT workers than it can hire. And that those local STEM/IT workers are better qualified than foreign STEM workers, Facebook protects from competition with those local STEM/IT workers.

    By limiting the Green Care retry to 2x, we can allow the better qualified local STEM/IT workers into a job. And the foreign worker can be freed up to apply for less desirable companies, say startups, where they are more likely to succeed in passing the Green Card Perm test. And that is the way to minimize impact of the wage allocation on startups.

  3. Asian countries never let people from other nations come into their country to take away their jobs. But they can come here, take away jobs. They demand easy approval process for h1 approvals without any verification and demand quicker green cards and anything they want. You see how fast green card moving now but government is running short of staff to process tax returns for US Citizens.
    They have a great ground work to control immigration systems today.
    If h1b’s are really talented why would their country leave them?
    Min. half a million leaves India every year so other countries have to make arrangements to prioritize them than their own citizens?
    Don’t fool people by saying they are talented. Everyone knows how the consulting businesses run starting from OPT Students training, interview and managing at client sites.
    The system has to be fixed starting from educational visa. It can be possible once election funding is blocked from multinational companies whose main origin is offshore and founder is not a US BORN Citizen.

    • “founder is not a US BORN Citizen” …. does it have to be born US citizen? can you become citizen? this seems just another racist nativist rant. This is why nobody in power takes seriously this h1b issue, not even Trump, they would need to agree with people like you. Glad Biden is ditching most of H1b restrictions.

      • Sunjip

        Speaking of racist nativist, what are immigration and diversity rates like in countries like India?

        Indian businesses and outsourcing chop shops have been exploiting the American H1B for decades. Democrats turn a blind eye to this or the many who claim to be ‘minorities’ and steal an assortment of grants designed for real actual minorities like African Americans.

        • You seem to have a fixation with India, but in fact it doesn’t matter where they come from. If India would not provide professionals, then H1bs would come from a different place and racist people would be complaining about all the latinos, arabs, eastern europeans taking IT jobs. If companies want H1bs, they will get them no matter what, especially when they are talented and help companies to get the big profits they are having now. And don’t even start with “democrats”, we just had Trump with republican majority in both chambers.

      • Jake_Leone

        Thanks for pointing out the racist nature of the statement about needing founders to be native born. Certainly they do not have to be, in the United States.

        Other countries have different views. T. Boon Pickens tried to buy out a Japanese company, and was prevented from doing so by government and business collusion in Japan.

        Further, many countries don’t allow non-citizens to buy property, this is true in Mexico, India, and China. So let’s be clear, countries can enact laws that discriminate against people because of their nationality. And it isn’t racist, if that law is applied equally, without regard to external nationality (except so often it is).

        But the U.S. should use it’s economic strength to persuade other countries to change their laws regarding foreign ownership of land and businesses. This would have the knock-on affect of raising the value of foreign currencies (relative to the dollar) and in doing so would drive down U.S. unemployment. It would also limit the excessive speculation if local U.S. housing markets by foreign investors.

        But we don’t do that, unlike India, Mexico, and China. Hence their currencies are massively devalued.