H-1B: Nearly three-quarters of Silicon Valley tech workers foreign born, report says

Foreigners are wrecking America, some say, but new data suggests that Silicon Valley would be lost without them.

About 71 percent of tech workers in the valley are foreign-born, compared to about 50 percent in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward region, according to a new report based on 2016 census data.

Techies from outside America tend to go “the center of the action” in the U.S. tech industry, Seattle venture capitalist S. “Soma” Somasegar told the Seattle Times.

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And Silicon Valley remains the “center of the tech universe,” according to the newspaper.

Beyond personal preferences, and the sheer number of companies in areas such as Silicon Valley and fast-growing Seattle, the financial resources of major technology firms also play a role in bringing in foreign-born workers, the Seattle Times reported.

Many techies born elsewhere work under the controversial H-1B visa — intended for specialty occupations — which has become a flashpoint in the U.S. cage fight over immigration, with opponents claiming it lets foreigners steal American jobs, and several companies and U.C. San Francisco accused of abusing the visa program by using it as a tool to outsource Americans’ jobs to far-away lands.

Although 2016 data released by the federal government last year shows that outsourcing companies — mostly from India — raked in the bulk of H-1B visas, Google took more than 2,500 and Apple nearly 2,000 to hire foreign workers, about 60 percent of them holding master’s degrees.

Large companies, the Seattle Times pointed out, are better equipped to bring in workers under the H-1B.

“The H1-B process is not just complicated — it’s also quite expensive to sponsor an H1-B visa worker, a cost larger companies may be more willing to absorb,” the paper reported.

Legal blog UpCounsel puts the cost of the H-1B process at $10,000 to $11,000 per employee.

The Seattle Times did not include in its report a breakdown for Silicon Valley of how many immigrants are U.S. citizens, versus visa holders. But the paper’s research indicated that 63 percent of Seattle’s foreign-born techies were not American citizens.


Photo: Visa applications. (Courtesy U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service)


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  • Fantasy Maker

    The point is that tech companies are gaming the system by flooding it with hundreds of thousands of applications, hoping to get as many as possible.

    • Mark

      Yes, the abuse starts when they hire “interns” on the OPT visas. And then they try to get as many of their former interns H-1B visas. The net effect being, since Americans can’t get OPT internships, they’re not even considered for the jobs post-graduation. Top US citizen grads are routinely ignored by the tech sector despite submitting their applications to many positions for which they’re qualified.

  • Perturbed Pundit

    Mkay. Thanks for showing how American citizens are being discriminated against.

    While lobbying Congress for more H-1B visas, industry claims H-1B workers are the “best and brightest”. Come payday, however, they’re entry-level workers.

    The GAO put out a report on the H-1B visa that discusses at some length the fact that the vast majority of H-1B workers are hired into entry-level positions. In fact, most are at “Level I”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who have a “basic understanding of duties and perform routine tasks requiring limited judgment”. Moreover, the GAO found that a mere 6% of H-1B workers are at “Level IV”, which is officially defined by the US Dept. of Labor as those who are “fully competent” [1]. This belies the industry lobbyists’ claims that H-1B workers are hired because they’re experts that can’t be found among the U.S. workforce.

    So this means one of two things: either employers are looking for entry-level workers (in which case, their rhetoric about needing “the best and brightest” is meaningless), or they’re looking for more experienced workers but only paying them at the Level I, entry-level pay scale. In my opinion, employers are using the H-1B visa to engage in legalized age discrimination, as the vast majority of H-1B workers are under the age of 35 [2], especially those at the Level I and Level II categories.

    Any way you slice it, it amounts to H-1B visa abuse, all facilitated and with the blessings of the US government.

    The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has never shown a sharp upward trend of Computer Science graduate starting salaries, which would indicate a labor shortage (remember – the vast majority of H-1B visas are granted for computer-related positions). In fact, according to their survey for Fall 2015, starting salaries for CS grads went down by 4% from the prior year. This is particularly interesting in that salaries overall rose 5.2% [3][4].

    [1] GAO-11-26: H-1B VISA PROGRAM – Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program
    [2] Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report to Congress October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016
    [3] NACE Fall 2015 Salary Survey
    [4] NACE Salary Survey – September 2014 Executive Summary

  • Mark

    Meanwhile top US citizen grads can submit their applications to SV tech employers and have them ignored. SV tech employers are absolutely and utterly addicted to hiring foreign nationals to the exclusion of even considering qualified local talent.

  • Mark

    Good grief, Google is the absolute last company in America that needs the H-1B visa. Its applicant to hire ratio is in excess of 1:1000.