Low Salaries for Low Skills: Wages and Skill Levels for H-1B Computer Workers, 2005

Source: John Miano, Center for Immigration Studies, Backgrounder, April 2007

Technology sector employers, who represent the largest share of H-1B visa users, tell the public that the H-1B program is vital to their ability to find the highly skilled workers they need. Yet Department of Labor data tell a different story. Previous studies have found that the H-1B program is primarily used to import low-wage workers. This report examines the most recently available wage data on the H-1B program and finds that the trend of low prevailing wage claims and low wages continues. In addition, while industry spokesmen say these workers bring needed skills to our economy, on the H-1B Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) filed with the Department of Labor, employers classify most of their H-1B workers as being relatively low-skilled for the jobs they are filling.

This report compares prevailing wage claims and wages employers reported for H-1B workers in computer programming occupations in FY 2005 to wages for U.S. workers in the same occupation. Although the H-1B program stipulates that employers must pay H-1B workers at least the prevailing wage for their occupation and location, the results of this report clearly demonstrate that the regulation does not produce that result.

The findings in this report clearly demonstrate that the legal definition of the prevailing wage requirement does not ensure H-1B workers are paid the actual market prevailing wage. Employer prevailing wage claims and reported wages for H-1B workers are significantly less than those for U.S. workers in the same occupation and location. This suggests that, regardless of the program’s original intent, the H-1B program now operates mainly to supply U.S. employers with cheap workers, rather than with essential skilled workers.

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