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Programming The Almighty Buck Stats Politics

H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative For Engineers, Dev Leads 176

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Ever wanted to know how much H-1B holders make per year? Developer Swizec Teller, who is about to apply for an H-1B visa, took data from the U.S. Department of Labor and visualized it in a series of graphs that break down H-1B salaries on a state-by-state basis. Teller found that the average engineer with an H-1B makes $87,000 a year, a good deal higher than developers ($74,000) and programmers ($61,000) with the same visa. ("Don't call yourself a programmer," he half-joked on Twitter.) Architects, consultants, managers, administrators, and leads with H-1Bs can likewise expect six-figure annual salaries, depending on the state and company. Teller's site is well worth checking out for the interactive graphs, which he built with React and D3.js. The debate over H-1Bs is an emotional one for many tech pros, and research into the visa's true impact on the U.S. labor market wasn't helped by the U.S. Department of Labor's recent decision to destroy H-1B records after five years. "These are the only publicly available records for researchers to analyze on the demand by employers for H-1B visas with detail information on work locations," Neil Ruiz, who researches visa issues for The Brookings Institution, told Computerworld after the new policy was announced in late 2014.
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H-1B Visas Proving Lucrative For Engineers, Dev Leads

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, hey may have similar salaries to their American counterparts, but they are still indebtures servants. You can get a lot more hours out of them making their real pay (per hour) significantly lower. And of course they'll do it, or they get shipped home.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @11:41AM (#49119695) Homepage

      I wouldn't even go that far. In all of the locations I looked at where I have some knowledge of the going rates, that data actually showed that the H1-Bs are on the low end of the scale.

      This data doesn't appear to be anything to brag about really.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Maybe low end in america, but they aren't staying in america. They are sending that money to their native shithole, where it will make them rich compared to the locals living on a few dollars a day. And with it they will also steal america tech secrets and bring them to our enemies like china.

        This h1b shit has to stop. Seriously.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @01:11PM (#49120417)

        Me and my friends all have either H1-B or TN visas, we all have six figure incomes. The H1-B workers who have a low salary have it because they don't have the motivation to improve or the skills to stand out, the same as people who are not using a work visa.

        I've switched jobs 3 times, and it really is no problem with the visa, in my case I just fill out a 'change of employer' form and that is it, I don't even need to leave the country.

      • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @01:17PM (#49120455) Journal

        I think it's even worse than that. The survey likely doesn't show what the individuals who got their H1-B's through Tata and Infosys actually get paid, instead showing what the tech corp paid agencies like Infosys or Tata instead for a given individual. Contractors are contractors, after all - the rate paid to the contracting agency for a guy is way more than the guy himself will ever see. A corp can pay a rate of $50/hr to the agency (be it US or foreign), but the guy in the seat is lucky to see $30/hr of that, before taxes. Tata and Infosys devour the majority of H1-B visas, so it stands to reason that maybe they should be more specific on who they're surveying.

        TL;DR: I may be wrong, but I suspect that the survey is bullshit, and that the reality is that the individual more often than not gets paid slave wages, while the tech company can still happily report paying "industry standard", since they pay that "average" rate to the agency.

        I could be wrong, but given greed...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          >$30 out of $50
          not even close. markup is usually 2 to 3 times. companies pay $90/hr for a mid level c# contractor.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          50/hr to agency 30/hr to me?

          I've worked with such agencies most of my career (local home grown American autodidact). If the agency is paying me 30/hr they are charging 125/hr. If the agency is paying me 50/hr they are charging 250/hr.

          What typically happens next is that rather than paying me 60/hr because I'm really good, they'll hire some joker to replace me who is 'kinda good' but local and willing to put up with more BS.

          More BS might include:
          - Being told that the 10/hr H1B is 'just as good as you but a lo

        • I suspect that the survey is bullshit

          Before thinking about survey, you should go to the direct source of how the "prevailing wage" is set - http://www.flcdatacenter.com/O... [flcdatacenter.com] Then you could see that the "price" has been set. Engineer types get higher wage than Developer and Programmer. Nothing is secret.

          Whenever someone talks about H1B, many people would associate it with "Big corporation" or "Cheap labor" which is stereotyping. The intention of the program has been good, but it is abused by big corporations; thus, these coporations give it a

          • The fact that corporations have been able to abuse the system so egregiously is, itself, a condemnation of the program. A proper program would have checks to prevent abuse like we see.

    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @12:23PM (#49120027)

      Don't compare salaries for one job against salaries for another job. $87k for an (electrical/computer) engineer is exceptionally low, generally 5 years xp max. I have seen H1B justifier req's out there where they offer that salary to 10-15 year people who make almost twice that, and obviously turn it down.

      This is pure FUD, of the "those people make more than me, so fuck them" variety. But H1B continues to be a huge problem and deterrent for people in the country to be in the field, and has the salary lowering effect we expect it would have.

      • Salaries are very local. Sure $87K/yr is low for 5 yrs exp in NYC or SF, but in some parts of the country, that's a decent senior engineer salary, especially if the job has other benefits like 40 hr work weeks, flex scheduling, overtime, pension, health care, etc.

        • by LetterJ ( 3524 ) *
          In Minneapolis, $900/mo gets me a 2000 square foot house on a 1/3 acre, fenced in lot on a cul-de-sac. I'm pretty sure I'd need to make quite a bit more to afford similar in NYC or SF.
    • Not everyone that comes to the US comes from a backwater, shitty hellhole of a country. If I was to work in the US, it would be on my terms. Sending me back home is much but certainly not a threat.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Also, visa workers typically don't (yet) have families or don't bring families to their job city to distract them. Their goal is often to make boat-loads of money for half a decade, relative to their home currency, and then have a nice nest-egg to raise a family etc. later. Thus, they ARE more likely to be dedicated and focused than the equivalent citizen.

      Corporations find families distracting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @11:39AM (#49119677)

    My CS professor said you can only get a CS job these days with one of them, but I can't find any information on what I have to do to get certified.

    • My CS professor said you can only get a CS job these days with one of them, but I can't find any information on what I have to do to get certified.

      Get a job where a company will sponsor your H1-B visa. You can't apply until you have a job. The company has to justify the need to hire you over someone else for it to be approved.

      • by nobuddy ( 952985 )

        |The company has to lie about there not being qualified US applicants to justify the need to hire you over someone else for it to be approved.

        I fixed your small grammatical error.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @11:48AM (#49119731)

    He started on a TN visa, recruited from an engineering school in Mexico. After a year he was transitioned to an H1-B visa, where he still is.

    You know, there may be unemployed citizens or green card holders with engineering degrees, but anyone as good as this employee would already be employed. He's imaginative, driven, and skilled. I wish the process to get him (and his wife, who was allowed to move here but isn't allowed to work) a green card wasn't so arduous.

    The H1-B debate seems to be about "hiring Americans who need jobs over foreigners". I don't want to work with someone hired to fill a quota, whether that quota is "unemployable American who managed to get an engineering degree" or otherwise. There are plenty of engineering jobs out there for the competent, with room to spare for those who need visas.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @11:56AM (#49119791) Homepage

      No. The H1B debate is about creating an easy to exploit underclass. Even the "talented types" get abused by corporations. Corporations get a free pass to rape pillage and plunder because that's just (Ayn Rand) trendy these days.

      Corporations want people that are easy to exploit. People with full legal status are harder to abuse. They also have higher expecations and higher overhead.

      • by FerociousFerret ( 533780 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @12:16PM (#49119973)
        Not sure about getting abused, but it certainly drives down the earning potential in the field. I have full time position, but was applying for a new opportunity. The position was listed with high requirements and experience. I fit the job description almost perfectly. When it came to discussing salary, they were offering $40k less than I currently make and without the high level of benefits I currently have. After I expressed disappointment in the salary for what was advertised as a highly experienced position, the recruiter said that their client was hoping to get an H1B visa person and the rate they quoted me was the going rate.
        • Bare in mind these companies are used to paying 2009 great recession salaries of 40k a year less.

          The programmer who did this happily accepted as there was no work. Now he left. Employers need a reality check as the economy now is not 2009 anymore.l

        • Not sure about getting abused, but it certainly drives down the earning potential in the field.

          I have full time position, but was applying for a new opportunity. The position was listed with high requirements and experience. I fit the job description almost perfectly. When it came to discussing salary, they were offering $40k less than I currently make and without the high level of benefits I currently have. After I expressed disappointment in the salary for what was advertised as a highly experienced position, the recruiter said that their client was hoping to get an H1B visa person and the rate they quoted me was the going rate.

          I'm an independent IT contractor in France. I constantly get calls from Indian companies with great sounding opportunities and then they tell me that it pays X, which is generally half or less of my general rate. I used to say 'no thanks' and hang up until I realized that they are certainly counting the number of Nos that they get and using that to justify work visas to bring in cheap labor. "Oh we couldn't find anyone interested look we called X hundred westerners (or whatever)).

          Now I say "Yes I'm intere

    • He started on a TN visa, recruited from an engineering school in Mexico. After a year he was transitioned to an H1-B visa, where he still is.

      Just out of curiosity, do you pay him the same as your American engineers?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Of course I do. Now he makes less as a family than his coworkers, but that's because his wife can't work. Hopefully that will be fixed in the next few years as both transition to green card status.

  • No, The real issue (I believe) is that they can't find engineers willing to work for less than other engineers (2/3rd the pay and no benefits).

    I've seen when they do a postings for H1B jobs, Its tailored specifically to that person for THAT job, then its posted for just long enough to meet the legal requirement to "prove" they tried to find a qualified US engineer but nope, They didn't find any so the H1B person is kept

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do know that for a H1-B there is no posting requirement right? That's for PERM position. A person who has usually been working in the country for a few years usually with the same company. But the DOL requires that the position be advertised as a position with zero experience gained on that JOB, i.e. an entry level job.

      So, let's say a company has a H1b employee whom they like. Has been working with them for 2 years. They want to retain him. DOL requires that the position be advertised with the minimum

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      No, The real issue (I believe) is that they can't find engineers willing to work for less than other engineers (2/3rd the pay and no benefits).

      I've seen when they do a postings for H1B jobs, Its tailored specifically to that person for THAT job, then its posted for just long enough to meet the legal requirement to "prove" they tried to find a qualified US engineer but nope, They didn't find any so the H1B person is kept

      Just because a law can be exploited, doesn't mean it's always exploited.

      Engineers are mor

    • Obviously you can keep increasing the salary until you'll find an American able or willing to do the job. But then that means your risk capital expenditure increases. Just about everything you put money into comes with a risk. If you own a business, there is only so much money you are able to gamble. The more risky something is, the reward potential must go up exponentially for someone to invest in it. What am I getting at, if the cost of entry to making a startup or company is high, less such companies wil

      • And btw, why aren't there americans willing to work for $60K?

        There are! They just aren't willing to relocate to a fucking cardboard box in Silicon Valley.

  • Canadians (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @11:54AM (#49119781) Journal

    Everyone seems to imagine those holding H1-B visas to be from poor countries who are ready to work 12 hours a day as a slave to avoid being shipped "back to the slums."

    As a Canadian, I've been offered over the years 2 separate jobs in the US with the offer to do it through a H1-B visa. Many of my ex-co-workers took up this offer at one point and have since moved to the US. I have no idea if they'll ever move back.

    The salary offered through both of my offers were very competitive, and I only turned them down because I disagree with a lot of the way the US is run and prefer Canada, and the extra amount offered wasn't enough to make me want to leave.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      I don't have to "imagine" anything. I have seen it firsthand. I have seen the no-talent schmucks from India used as scab labor and I have seen the overqualified and highly talented types from 1st world countries. Both were underpaid and in a vulnerable position.

      Talent worth importing is talent worth importing with full status and no strings attached.

      • by iONiUM ( 530420 )

        I think your opinion is rather bias. Both job offers I had offered a signing bonus (no strings attached), as well as stock options (if I stayed there for 2 years) and of course free re-location, as well as a tour (that I did go on) of the area beforehand. If I took the job, I was more than free to quit and move back to Canada at anytime if I disliked it.

        So I don't know what you mean by 'vulnerable' position. If you take a job in another country, you take that job. You can quit and return to your own country

        • So I don't know what you mean by 'vulnerable' position. If you take a job in another country, you take that job. You can quit and return to your own country at any time.

          The vulnerability is for those that don't want to return but eventually get a green card. The "Do this or I pull your visa threat" is very real for them; and they would generally be the lower level cheap IT labor pool people, not someone with very valuable and specialized experience that a company wants to keep.

    • Re:Canadians (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @12:05PM (#49119879)

      Everyone seems to imagine those holding H1-B visas to be from poor countries who are ready to work 12 hours a day as a slave to avoid being shipped "back to the slums."

      My experience with H1-B engineers is that they all have very different situations. I know several that wanted a few years in the US simply for the experience and contacts, then they would go back to Asia in a better position than they left. Some Europeans want to live here for a while for the experience but eventually plan to return home, those individuals often have a lot of experience. Others have little to return to and hope for citizenship here, they tend to be younger, less experienced people.

      I think there are a certain number of engineers with certain skill sets that can demand a quite high pay, skewing the average upward for "engineers".

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wanted to confirm and add to this.
      I'm an engineer in a Fortune 100 company and make a decent 6 digit salary on a H1B visa.
      Are there local engineers who are smarter than me? Sure.
      However, the truth is that I'm better than the average local engineer
      I have never worked more than 50 hours in a week (few years in this company already). Mostly it's 40-45 hours per week.
      I wouldn't be here if it required working 12 hours a day at a substandard pay.
      There are people who are on H1B visa for the right reasons and mak

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Same here... I have a Ph.D. in CS from one of the programs jointly ranked at the top in the US. I make way more than an average software engineer and I also consider myself way over the average and was promoted fairly quickly (I'm at one of the top tech companies). My visa is an H1-B. I'm also not in the "exploitable" category, since I'm from a well off European country.

        However, the H1-B problems would be pretty quick to end if they mandated, say, a minimum salary for H1-Bs and required it to be above the a

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Everyone seems to imagine those holding H1-B visas to be from poor countries who are ready to work 12 hours a day as a slave to avoid being shipped "back to the slums."

      I worked with some very talented engineers from Paris, hardly a third world slum. Our boss was quick to remind them that he controlled their residency, especially when deadlines were looming. "It's 11PM. We need some sleep." "If working here is too fast paced, I'm sure you'd be more relaxed back in France." Exile to Paris isn't exactly punishment, but it's a pretty bad deal when you've made friends, have a home, maybe started a relationship, and otherwise don't want to be kicked out of the country on a day'

    • Most Canadians professionals working in the US do not have H1-B. The TN1 is much more flexible.
    • The salary offered through both of my offers were very competitive...

      Competitive when compared with Canadian salaries, or with US salaries for the same job in the target geographical location?

  • In some places it is illegal to call yourself an engineer if you isn't really one (unlike software "engineers").
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Nobody can agree on how to measure quality "software engineering". Outside of machine performance, code is really about communicating with other developers more so than communicating with machines. Machines can run anything explicitly defined, whether it's C++, machine code, or Brainfuck; but human grokking is much more sensitive to syntax, organization, etc., and varies per mind. This is the realm of psychology and other "soft" sciences that are difficult or expensive to do practical research in.

    • In some places it is illegal to call yourself an engineer if you isn't really one (unlike software "engineers").

      Alright sounds fair. Why can't a consortium or guild provide this certification? For coders who need something done will be programmers who will earn less and therefore no need for H1B1s and for critical architects and SOA for critical projects you can have certified engineers?

      We could have 2 grades rather than average both of them and not having enough talent for one, yet be too expensive for the other use?

    • In some places it is illegal to call yourself an engineer if you isn't really one (unlike software "engineers").

      That's nice. See also: hacking, piracy, and architect. Accept that you've lost and move on.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      In some places it is illegal to call yourself an engineer if you isn't really one (unlike software "engineers").

      I can tell you aren't an engineer.

  • IT has historically had boom and bust cycles. I have no real problem with visa workers during a boom, but after the dot-com bust in the early 2000's enough didn't go home, and development jobs were hard to find on the west coast. I had to take scrappy contracts from shady agencies to survive. I think I spent more time in court trying to get my paychecks than doing actual IT work.

  • It's been 17 years and nobody has managed to revive Aerith, and I'd bet a limb or 2 that there are people still attempting it today.
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @01:48PM (#49120655)

    One of the reasons for the high salaries is the multiple reasons H-1B workers are used. The first is what most American IT and development workers are familiar with -- lowest bidder body shops that rotate in cheap labor for large companies who just want the cheapest possible price. In my experience, these are the guys brought in to do DBA work, SW development, etc. at barely market rate or below. In my experience this is where all the stories of crap code, incorrect system design, etc. come from.

    The second is those workers/companies who are using the visa more or less as it was intended...short term importing of very talented people with actual non-commodity skills a company needs. These are people brought in to work on new product design, etc. that is more highly paid. So, you have two peaks in the salary curve, one for the low end chair-filler type of worker and one for the specialized worker.

    Everyone's situation is different. I work for a medium size multinational company, and it's almost normal for (good, talented) people to rotate around countries using whatever visa status is appropriate to work on projects. Since the cost of relocating someone and applying for their visas is so high, this is mainly for people who actually have something to contribute beyond commodity stuff. By the same token, they do a lot of offshore stuff too, but they prefer to keep it at arms length (i.e. use a body shop like Infosys or Tata.)

    I think the intended use of the H-1B is fine, but the race to the bottom use isn't. Companies should have a higher bar to prove they actually need to import a worker beyond complaining "we can't find any domestic talent." They're out there, you just have to pay for them.

  • There are tons of people from India, China and many other countries who do graduate studies in USA in student visa F1. Then they get to work for 12 months as "Practical Training" period. If they hold a STEM degree they get an additional 15 months. After that they get H1B and stay on it till they get their green cards. This group will get very competitive salaries and they are usually world class graduates demanding and getting world class salary.

    Then there is a whole different set of H1Bs, fresh from Indi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The site says the data comes from the US Dept of Labor. [doleta.gov] However, H1B fraud often follows a pattern of submitting multiple Labor Condtion Applications (LCAs) with different salaries for the same job and then when the H1B is approved for one particular LCA the employer uses the LCA with the lowest salary. [cringely.com]

    I do not have the expertise to say if the DoL stats reflect salary info from the actual LCA the employer ends up using or just the salary info from the LCA that the H1B was issued for. My innate cyncism say

  • One can throw all the money in the world towards an H1-b, but citizens have something more valuable - freedom to move between employers. Guest worker programs only serve to square the circle of having a legal, captive, non-citizen labor supply in a First World country.

    Kill off the guest worker programs and then see how much businesses have to cater to citizens - as they cannot offshore everything.

  • by jgotts ( 2785 ) <jgotts@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 24, 2015 @05:06PM (#49122347)

    I looked at my state and H1Bs have below-average salaries, somewhere around 10-25% below average, depending upon the exact position. Clearly, the purpose of H1Bs is to drive down the wages of people already here; otherwise, H1Bs would be getting paid about the same as everyone else, within let's say 5-10%.

    I also looked at the numbers, and by far the H1Bs are going to California. Only 2,000 made their way to my state. Companies in California want you to live there, paying $3,000 or more per month in rent plus high taxes and everything else but aren't willing to pay you enough to be able to afford it. Since they've run out of people to con into moving to California, they've turned to H1Bs.

    I have nothing against the best and brightest coming to the United States. We have tons and tons of international students studying engineering in our universities, and these people are more than welcome to stay here and become citizens, joining our labor pool.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I may be a day late for this thread, but I have a current anecdote to illustrate this issue ...

    We're looking for summer interns, but I have 182 applicants for one position. I can't possibly look at them all, so I filtered. Of the limited I found we can filter by, I went to those in there way to a Masters degree in a year (so internship is an extended evaluation for offering a real job). Masters because I could do that to get me down to a manageable list with still plenty of choices. Master Degree is not

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