What the H1-B Program is Really Used For Versus its Advertised Use

Executive Summary

  • The H1-B lobby and IT media communicate an entirely false picture of the H1-B program.
  • We cover what research shows how the program is actually used.


The H1-B lobby communicates an enormous amount of false information about the H1-B program as it boosts the profits of so many major donors. The H1-B lobby likes to state that the program is about “skills” and “American competitiveness.” We found a quotation that explains the real purpose of the H1-B program.

The Reality of the H1-B Program

A study published by Daniel Costa and Ron Hira in the Economic Policy Institute titled H-1B visas, and prevailing wage levels found the following.

The data in this report show the top 30 H-1B employers are in fact hiring H-1B workers to fill a very large number of routine (Levels 1 and 2) positions that require relatively little experience and ordinary skills. H-1B proponents might argue that the H-1B workers they are hiring for these routine positions are recent graduates with little experience, and therefore it is appropriate to pay them prevailing wages set far below the median. There are two problems with this proposal.

First, there is a large existing U.S. labor pool for Level 1 and 2 types of positions that could be expanded even further through private investments in training. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been graduating in record numbers with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering over the past five years;29 these recent graduates can and should be filling most positions that H-1B employers have assigned as Levels 1 and 2, and they should be prioritized for those positions. But since most H-1B employers are not required to advertise H-1B positions to U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers,30 it is unclear whether very many U.S. workers are ever afforded an opportunity to apply for these positions. – Economic Policy Institute

What the H1-B Program is Really Used For

The data presented in this report indicate that all H-1B employers, but especially the largest employers, use the H-1B program either to hire relatively lower-wage workers (relative to the wages paid to other workers in their occupation) who possess ordinary skills or to hire skilled workers and pay them less than the true market value of their work. Either possibility raises important policy questions about the use and allocation of H-1B visas. – Economic Policy Institute

What Percentage of H1-B Workers are in the Lowest Prevailing Wage Levels?

Not surprisingly, three-fifths of all H-1B jobs were certified at the two lowest prevailing wage levels in 2019. In fiscal 2019, a total of 60% of H-1B positions certified by DOL had been assigned wage levels well below the local median wage for the occupation: 14% were at H-1B Level 1 (the 17th percentile) and 46% were at H-1B Level 2 (34th percentile).

One would therefore expect most H-1B positions to be assigned as Level 4 (the only wage level above the median), but as the data presented in this report show, H-1B employers as a whole assign only a very small minority of H-1B positions as Level 4—just 12%—and the top 30 H-1B employers assign even fewer H-1B positions as Level 4, just one in nine (11%). – Economic Policy Institute


The point of the H1-B visa program is to allow companies that operate in the US to bring in compliant (as the employer controls the H1-B visa holder) workers who will work for less than prevailing wages. Some H1-B visa holders are high skilled, but the majority are not.

The H1-B visas program is doubly damaging for domestic US IT workers, as the majority of H1-B visa workers have been Indian, and Indians have demonstrated extreme discrimination against US IT workers as we cover in the article How Indian IT Workers Discriminate Against Non-Indian Workers. This means that non only to US IT workers get displaced by Indian H1-B workers. Still, the H1-B visa holders and previous H1-B visa holders that are now Green Card holders or US citizens actively discriminate against domestic US IT workers in favor of Indians. These are subjects that are not discussed by the establishment media.