There are myths surrounding the H-1B nonimmigrant visa that may be fueling some of the anti-immigration sentiment of late. Some misconceptions are that H-1B workers work for low salaries, are not qualified, lack education, and/or are merely cheap labor from overseas to undercut and replace US workers. A released report has debunked these myths.
A January 2012 report by Magnun Lofstrom and Joseph Hayes at the Public Policy Institute of California, titled “‘H-1Bs: How do they stack up to US born workers?” has some interesting findings.
The report found that H-1B workers are younger and more highly educated than both naturalized immigrant and US born workers. The average age for foreign workers is 32 years old while the age for US workers is 43.
The report concludes that most US born workers, about 60%, in high skilled areas of the workforce have no formal education beyond a bachelor degree. Conversely, only about 40% of foreign workers in high skilled areas have not gone beyond a bachelor degree. Moreover, H-1B workers are more likely to possess a non-professional doctoral degree that US workers, 12.7% of H-1B workers vs. 4.6% of skilled US workers.
A very large number of H-1B workers are in the information technology field, at 42%. Only 10% of US born workers with bachelor degrees are in this field. This also holds true for other related fields of industry such as engineering, mathematics, and sciences.
According to the report, H-1B workers are not cheap labor from overseas. Annual earnings for H-1B workers are actually higher than their US worker counterparts, about 10% higher on average, according to the report.