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Foreign IT pros in USA get paid more than Americans - study

H-1Bs 'can't be driving down US pay' insist analysts

Foreign IT professionals working in the States on H-1B visas don't cause a reduction in pay for Americans, according to a new study - because they actually get paid more than US citizens with similar qualifications, not less.

According to a survey of "more than 50,000 IT professionals in the United States" analysed by Sunil Mithas and Henry C Lucas of the University of Maryland, H-1B workers "earn a salary premium" compared to Americans with similar "human capital attributes" - eg qualifications and experience. The study covered the period 2000-2005.

The two business profs say that the cap on numbers of H-1B visas causes "supply shocks" in the US IT employment market, with lower, fully-utilised caps pushing up the premium paid by employers for foreign workers.

They argue for larger numbers of visas to be issued, saying that too-low caps motivate companies to relocate offshore where they can hire the foreigners they want without paying the H-1B induced premium.

The two profs contend that perceived damage to Americans' career and earnings prospects from the numbers of foreigners allowed so far cannot be real. They say that their research "provides indirect evidence that visa and immigration policies so far have not had any adverse impact on the wages of American IT professionals due to any relatively lower compensation of foreign IT professionals".

Their paper Are Foreign IT Workers Cheaper? U.S. Visa Policies and Compensation of Information Technology Professionals can be read here (subscription required). ®

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