H-1B Visa Most Used for ‘Software Engineer,’ ‘Software Developer’ Roles


A recent H-1B visa data-dump from the U.S. Department of Labor shows job titles such as “software developer” and “software engineer” are the most widely used for H-1B candidates.

We analyzed the top job titles used by tech companies when securing H-1B visas for overseas talent. You might assume that, with the government’s crackdown on the H-1B program, tech companies would have to submit H-1B requests with specific job titles in mind. Nope.

Doing some cross-referencing on the cities and states with the highest concentration of H-1B visas, we can deduce that internal job titles are not always used within H-1B applications. For example: levels.fyi shows Google’s base software engineer job titles include “L3,” “SWE II”, and ‘Software Engineer 2’ – but such titles doesn’t show up in the dataset’s list of job titles. (Mountain View, where Google is headquartered, was the third most popular city for the H-1B visa program.)

Google appears to be using the visa program heavily, sourcing “software engineers” or “software developers.” Tech companies are also relying on consulting firms to bring in overseas tech professionals; in such cases, the use of generic titles are understandable, as the consultancy may not know exactly how a company designates its engineers, developers, and designers.

Within the top ten job titles used in H-1B applications, most are generic; only “Java Developer” suggests a bespoke skillset for placement. The opacity is understandable, but likely worrisome for those domestic tech professionals who are concerned their jobs are at risk.

Aside from staffing uncertainty, it’s entirely possible tech companies and sourcing firms are using job title opacity to save a few bucks. In a look at the salaries associated with the visa (from the same dataset), we found the average H-1B salary is $89,779. The average salary for tech pros, according to the Dice Salary Survey, is $93,244. Digging a bit further, the Dice Salary Survey shows the average income for software engineers is $110,989. Opacity allows companies to potentially adjust (and suppress) how much they need to pay for talent.

Within this dataset, it’s also hard to discern whether a “software engineer” or “software developer” sourced via the H-1B program actually has the specialized knowledge or skillset the visa is meant for. And when we compare the job titles to earnings, it appears companies really are simply using the visa program to save a bit of money on contracted tech professionals.