Howard University public policy professor, Ron Hira, released a study that found that U.S. tech firms are using the H-1B visa system to replace American workers with low wage foreign workers.

The study used FY13 H-1B data, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, and reveals new details about how firms are using the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program.

According to the data, two tech firms in California saved "well over $20,000 per worker per year, by hiring an H-1B instead of a local U.S. worker earning the average wage" thereby removing the incentive to hire American workers in favor of cheaper foreign labor.

The study also tackles the myth that H-1B visas are necessary to fill the "skills gap" that the tech industry claims to have that American workers do not meet.

Proponents of the H-1B repeatedly argue that the program injects much needed skills into the labor market, which are presently lacking in the U.S. workforce. They claim the H-1B is used: 1) to recruit and hire the “best and brightest” workers from around the world; 2) to fill skills gaps in the U.S. workforce; and 3) as a way to retain talented foreign students with advanced degrees who received their education and training in the United States (this is a favorite canard of President Obama). H-1B data and the SCE case show that none of these arguments are even remotely true.

If American workers are training their foreign replacements before they get laid off, then it is quite obvious that it’s the American trainers—not the H-1B trainees—who have the superior skills. Are H-1B workers being brought in because they have extensive formal training, like an advanced degree? The answer to that is a definitive no. The vast majority of Infosys and Tata’s imported H-1B workers hold no more than a Bachelor’s degree. During the FY10-12 period, 78 percent of Tata’s and 85 percent of Infosys’s H-1B employees held only a Bachelor’s degree or less. Finally, there’s also no evidence that Tata and Infosys are using the H-1B to retain foreign students who studied and earned an advanced degree in the United States: Only 1-in-206 of Infosys’ H-1B workers held an advanced degree from a U.S. university, and even less of Tata’s H-1B workers did, just 1-in-222.

Professor Hira concludes the study by saying "All of the evidence makes it abundantly clear that the H-1B visa is being used to displace U.S. workers employed in decent-paying middle class STEM jobs."

Read the full study

H-1B visas