When the attorney general of the state of Washington filed suit against President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting travel on legal U.S. immigrants and others, three Washington-based companies quickly signed on to the state’s suit. In a brief filed Sunday, February 5, a total of 97 firms were added to an amicus curiae brief.
Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ: EXPE) were joined by other well-known companies adding their names to the amicus brief: Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY), Google, Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC), Lyft, Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX), Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM), Snap, Spotify, Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) and Uber.
While the brief cites the arguments regarding the constitutionality of the executive order, there is another issue of particular interest to at least some of the signatories: the U.S. H-1B non-immigrant visa program under which non-U.S. citizens may be hired to fill positions for which no U.S. citizen can be found.
The number of H-1B visas available is capped by law at 85,000 per year and the number of applications far exceeds the number of visas available. The three companies that have applied to sponsor the most H-1B visas in the period from 2012 through 2016 are all IT-services outsourcing firms based in India: Infosys Ltd. (NYSE: INFY) with 110,257 applications; Tata Consultancy with 49,004; and Wipro Ltd. (NYSE: WIT) with 32,759. Among the other top 10 applicants, IBM India applied for 23,006 H-1B visas and Microsoft applied for 13,457.
According to website H1BPay, only Microsoft of the top 10 sponsors paid H-1B visa holders an average salary of more than $100,000 annually over the five-year period. Tata paid the least: $68,036.
But even Microsoft did not make the list of the 10 companies that paid their H-1B visa holders the most over the five-year period. Here’s that list:
- Facebook: $137,516
- Twitter: $136,110
- Bloomberg: $132,900
- Boston Consulting Group: $128,887
- Google: $128,624
- PayPal: $127,207
- eBay: $125,712
- Apple: $123,239
- VMware: $123,026
- Salesforce.com: $122,963
According to H1BPay, there are 1,450 H-1B visa holders at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters earning an average annual salary of $135,000. The salary range for those employees is $85,000 to $247,200 with a median of $138,300.
According to a review of salaries at Facebook and Google by Paysa in September of last year, the average market salary for all software engineers at Facebook is $144,000. Including bonuses and stock grants, the average software engineer at Facebook received total compensation of $302,000.
The argument that tech companies want to keep the H-1B visa program because it allows them to hire cheaper foreign workers appears to be undercut by the salaries paid H-1B visa holders. There are some differences in pay levels between H-1B visa holders and overall payrolls, but for the top companies, the differences are relatively small.
And the difference could be explained by the three-year term (renewable once) of the H-1B visa. Chances are that the churn keeps new, less-experienced workers flowing in while more experienced workers return to their home countries. But that’s just a guess, and it could just as easily be true that once visa holders’ terms expire, they apply for permanent U.S. residency.
Forbes highlights a recent version of the latter case:
In 2007, because he obtained employment authorization after waiting 7 years for his green card, Indian-born immigrant entrepreneur Jyoti Bansal finally could start AppDynamics, a company that today employs over 900 people and was recently purchased by Cisco for $3.7 billion.