Lobbyists Spin GAO Report on H-1B

By John Miano on February 21, 2011

We have previously reported that the GAO has released a new study on the H-1B program titled "H-1B Visa Program: Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program". As you can tell from the title, this report does not paint a pretty picture of the H-1B program, like all the other government reports that came before it.

Now the lobbyist spin on the GAO report is coming in.

Our good friends at CompeteAmerica proudly summarize by stating "GAO Report Finds H-1B Visa Recipients Not a Cheap Source of Labor".

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, never letting facts stand in the way of a good argument, makes the same point.


Let me quote directly from the GAO's report:

A comparison of median annual salaries reveals that for systems analysts, programmers, and other computer-related workers – the largest of the three occupational categories we examined – H-1B workers tended to earn less than U.S. workers; however, some of the salary gap appears to be explained by differences in ages, which may reflect differences in the extent of their work experience." [p. 41; emphasis added]

There is a problem with the age-based explanation of the U.S. to H-1B wage difference. The Wall Street Journal's editorial hits on it, stating "[C]ompanies must pay the higher of the prevailing wage or actual wage paid to 'all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the specific employment in question.'" [emphasis added]

Under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(n), an employer hiring an 25 year old H-1B worker must pay the that worker that higher of:

1. The actual wage paid to other 25 year olds with similar experience; or

2. The prevailing wage for the occupation and area of employment.

For a 25 year old worker, the higher wage level is likely to be the prevailing wage.

Employers are not supposed be paying H-1B worker less than the overall prevailing wage because they are younger. If that be the explanation for the wage difference, the GAO report shows employers are rampantly violating the law.