Foreign-born workers living in the United States on H1-B visas make up a significant portion of the tech industry's engineering ranks. Now, a new tool lets you search government data to find out how much those workers are getting paid.
A tool called U.S. Visa Explorer appeared on Hacker News on Friday. The tool searches government records for Labor Condition Applications (LCA), a piece of paperwork that prospective employers must file on behalf of workers hoping to get H1-B visas. These applications are publicly available, and include the names of workers' labor lawyers, as well as their salaries and the companies hoping to hire them. (The workers' names aren't listed, but at a small or mid-sized start-up, it presumably wouldn't be hard to figure out who was whom.) LCAs aren't perfectly accurate — companies often preemptively file them before making a hire, and the salary numbers listed are often lower or higher than the actual amounts earned — but they're the most comprehensive data set we have on the tech industry's H1-B contingent.
Tech titans in the top 10 of LCA seekers include Microsoft, IBM and Intel. (Microsoft's actually number two on the list.) Here's how other big names in tech stack up:
Total number of LCAs: 49,400
LCAs sought in 2015: 2,974
Average Salary (2015): $121,075
Total number of LCAs: 14,600
LCAs sought in 2015: 2,741
Average Salary (2015): $124,162
Total number of LCAs: 2,700
LCAs sought in 2015: 513
Average Salary (2015): $131,324
Total number of LCAs: 930
LCAs sought in 2015: 189
Average Salary (2015): $136,298
Total number of LCAs: 119
LCAs sought in 2015: 46
Average Salary (2015): $163,148
As a user on Hacker News points out, there are some pretty big privacy issues here: "The fact that this information is public is horrible," the user writes. "Its a very asymmetric relationship with your colleagues. If this were really meant to be about transparent controls, it should be tied to the wages of the other employees."
Another shared the same sentiment: "Wow, immigrants have no privacy in this country. Imagine, if US citizen salaries were made public like this. How would that make you feel?"
These people are right. Salaries of government employees are public and searchable on governmentsalarydata.com, but American citizens and permanent residents working at private companies don't have to worry about their salaries being disclosed. The same privilege doesn't seem to extend to foreign workers on H-1B visas.
But there's a possible upside: some workers could use this tool to negotiate for higher salaries.
Daniela Hernandez is a senior writer at Fusion. She likes science, robots, pugs, and coffee.
Kevin is Fusion's news director.