Main image of article Top 10 U.S. Cities Hungry to Acquire H-1B Workers

Which U.S. cities are seeing the most H-1B filings? As you might expect, the bulk of activity around the visa is centered in New York City and San Francisco/Silicon Valley, the nation’s largest tech hubs. However, cities such as Houston, Chicago, and Atlanta are also seeing elevated rates of H-1B filings.

For data, we’ve turned to the H-1B Salary Database, which indexes the Labor Condition Application (LCA) disclosure data from the United States Department of Labor (DOL). One interesting thing to note: On a city-by-city basis, there’s not a strict correlation between number of filings and the average H-1B salary—for example, Houston had an elevated number of H-1B filings, but the average salary there is well behind what H-1B workers are paid in Chicago, Austin, and other cities.

Here’s the full chart:

As we’ve pointed out before, the average salary for a city (or even a specific company) belies the true nuances of H-1B salaries. While many large tech companies in New York City and Silicon Valley pay their H-1B workers a lot of money (for example, the average H-1B salary at Google is $149,000, and an eye-popping $425,000 at Netflix), business-contracting and consulting firms such as Tata and Accenture pay their H-1B workers quite a bit less ($67,766 and $94,400, respectively, in the case of those companies). 

Overall city and national H-1B salaries might be high, in other words, but many H-1B workers are paid lower salaries and then subcontracted out, a practice that’s drawn critics’ ire for many years. 

President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 features language (in the respective Senate and House bills) that prioritizes visas based on higher wages. Should that part of the bill become law, it could effectively eliminate the current H-1B lottery in favor of a system that prioritizes higher-wage applicants. That would have a seismic effect on the current H-1B ecosystem, potentially forcing companies to pay more for this type of talent while undermining the business model of contracting firms. Critics would argue that, since the H-1B system was ostensibly designed to pull in talent from overseas that companies couldn’t find anywhere else, such a change would represent progress.

Meanwhile, the average technologist made $97,859 in 2020 (an increase of 3.6 percent from 2019), according to the latest Dice Salary Report. In the major tech hubs, tech salaries were even higher—averaging $126,801 in Silicon Valley and $114,274 in New York City. However, the cost of living in those cities is also notably high.