Where Are Most of America’s Highly-Skilled Foreign Workers Located?

H-1B applicants this year will likely face stricter reviews and longer waiting time. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Next Monday, foreign nationals who are offered a job by U.S. companies will begin filing applications for this year’s H-1B visa, the largest visa program for highly-skilled foreign workers to seek temporary residence in the country.

Applicants this year will likely face tightened scrutiny from the U.S. immigration service as President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed concerns about the program and ordered strict review processes.

As the beginning of this year’s H-1B cycle nears, the Pew Research Center looked into historical H-1B data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at the metropolitan level and mapped out where these foreign workers are—and how much they earn.

Between 2010 and 2016 (the most recent data available), the USCIS issued a total of 859,600 H-1B visas. A large portion of these visas were used by employers on the East Coast, primarily the New York City metropolitan area, and Texas, the study found.

The metro-New York area alone has 247,900 H-1B foreign hires, or 29 percent of the national total; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas and the metro-Washington, D.C. area trail as the second and third largest areas with nine percent and 7.5 percent of total H-1B count.

Tech companies in California, surprising, take a much smaller share.

Combined, the San Jose metro area (home to Silicon Valley) and the nearby San Francisco metro area hired 33,500 foreign workers over the seven-year period, accounting for four percent of the national total. (Actual headcount might be lower, because visa approvals include those who previously had a work visa and switch employers.)

Highly-skilled foreign workers concentrate on the East Coast and Texas. Pew Research Center

It’s also worth noting that, in a few small areas, foreign workers account for a larger proportion of the total local workforce than others, indicating that fewer local candidates are qualified for the same job.

For example, in College Station, Texas, 32 out of 100 workers hold a H-1B visa. College Station is a rather extreme case, because 99 percent of the area’s H-1B workers are employees of Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., a multinational consulting firm with its U.S. headquarters in the Texas town.

A vast majority of H-1B visas are used by prime-age workers in computer-related positions. According to USCIS records, between 2007 and 2017, 60 percent of H-1B applicants work in compute-related fields and 70 percent of applicants age between 25 and 34.

Interestingly, employers who hire the most foreign workers are not necessarily the highest paying ones. As the Pew study shows, the highest-paid foreign workers (measured by median annual salary) are concentrated in Stamford, Conn., Seattle, Wash., and Phoenix, Ariz.

On average, foreign workers in computer-related fields earn slightly more than their American counterparts. However, the difference mainly stems from the younger workforce.

According to the USCIS data, H-1B workers between the ages of 20 and 29 in data science, programming and other computer-related jobs make three percent more than their American peers in the same age group. For people over the age of 30, the pay gap is virtually nonexistent.

Top 3 Metropolitan Areas of H-1B Workers Between 2010 and 2016:

  • New York City-Newark-Jersey City: 247,900 (29 percent of national total)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington: 74,000 (9 percent of national total)
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria: 64,800 (7.5 percent of national total)

Top 3 Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Pay for Foreign Workers:

  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.: $100,200
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.: $98,100
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.: $97,100
Where Are Most of America’s Highly-Skilled Foreign Workers Located?