At a 2011 House hearing on H-1B visa issues, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said she had asked the Labor Dept. for a report the average wage for computer system analysts in her district. The result: $92,000 overall for entry level workers, but department also reported that the entry level rate prevailing wage rate for an H-1B worker was $52,000.
"We can't have people coming in and undercutting the American educated workforce -- that is just a problem," Lofgren said.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the Labor Dept. data and found that a majority of H-1B workers were hired at entry level.
In a year-long period ending midway through 2010, The GAO reported that 54% of the H-1B labor applications "were categorized as entry-level positions and were paid at the lowest pay grades allowed under the prevailing wage levels."
In response to the I2 bill, the Programmers Guild said all H-1B workers must be paid a salary of $100,000. "This deters employers from misusing" the H-1B visa "as a source of cheap, low-skilled, labor at the exclusion of new graduates."
Companies with the most critical need for H-1B visas are in India or companies that rely heavily on its labor force. Indian offshore outsourcing firms emerge year after year as the top H-1B users.
The most recent full-year data, 2011, found Cognizant, a New Jersey-based firm is that major offshore provider, atop the list with 5,715 H-1B approvals. It was followed by year-earlier leader Infosys, an India-based outsourcer, at 4,024. Other India-based firms, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Larsen & Toubro, were among the top 10 users of the H-1B visa, according to data provided by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Microsoft, IBM and Google are also among the top H-1B users, and it is those companies, and not the Indian firms, that shape the visa debate in Washington.
The visas may increase offshoring, argues Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"Since the offshore outsourcing industry is the biggest beneficiary of the H-1B, we know there will be more offshoring of high-wage, high-tech jobs," he said.
The conclusions of his examination of the temp visa programs is included in a 2010 2010 report.
The H-1B visa now has two caps, a 65,000 cap and a 20,000 cap for advanced degree STEM grads of U.S. universities. The bill that would allow up to 300,000 H-1B visas, the Immigration Innovation (I2) Act, exempts advanced degree STEM grads from any cap.