For the fifth year in a row, California is home to the highest number of H1-B visa workers in the U.S. That’s according to a new H1-B Visa Report, based on 647,852 Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) filed by 64,381 U.S. employers in fiscal year (FY) 2016. LCAs are the forms that employers submit in order for employees to receive H1-B visas.

There were 119,744 LCAs filed in California last year, and the average salary for California employees with H1-B visas rose to $100,542, hitting six figures for the first time. That’s well above the average H1-B employee salary nationwide: $85,783.

The debate over whether to expand or limit the H1-B visa program in the U.S. has been covered by a variety of news outlets, in part because – as WBUR’s Asma Khalid reports – the current administration has openly criticized the program. In The Atlantic last month, Nicholas Clairmont reported the president’s “Buy American, Hire American” agenda ordered a review of the H1-B visa program. And, several legislative proposals have been introduced in Congress to revamp the program, according to Bloomberg’s Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai.

We wanted to take a deeper look at the number of H1-B visa holders per state, and the average wage levels of those employees. You can use these interactive visualizations to compare the number of H1-B visa holders by year, state and salary.

Check out some of the trends yourself using our interactive map below. Or, click on any of the visuals within the post to interact with the data.


(1) States with the largest populations continue to see the highest numbers of H1-B visa holders

For the past five years, California, Texas and New York have had the highest numbers of H1-B visa-holding employees. California remains number one, with 119,744 LCAs filed in 2016, while Texas moved ahead of New York for second place in 2015.

Much has been written about Silicon Valley’s reliance on H1-B visas. Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky recently described the thousands of H-1B workers at Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and other major tech companies who are hand-picked talent – “selected from a sea of applicants.” Bershidsky predicted that restrictions on the H1-B program would significantly hinder U.S. leadership in the tech sector.

But technology isn’t the only sector reliant on H1-B visa holders. This is especially true in Texas, where – according to The Dallas Morning News – visas are now a popular tool for recruiting professors, consultants and even elementary school teachers.

(2) States with the lowest numbers of H1-B visa holders also see the highest salaries

It’s important to note that a high concentration of H1-B visa-holding employees doesn’t necessarily guarantee higher salaries for those employees.

In fact, in states where employers filed fewer Labor Condition Applications in order to attain employee H1-B visas, salaries were higher. Wyoming, for example, had the lowest number of LCAs filed last year – just 137 – but the average salary for H1-B visa holders was $102,661. West Virginia H1-B visa holders had the highest salaries in the country – $114,471 – despite the fact that just 617 LCAs were filed in that state last year.

(3) The states with the lowest numbers of H1-B visa holders have remained consistent

Alaska, Wyoming and Montana – which are largely rural and have some of the smallest populations in the U.S. – have consistently seen the lowest numbers of LCAs filed for H1-B visas over the past five years.

In Alaska in particular, fewer LCAs have being filed for H1-B visas each year since 2013. According to reporting by Annie Zak of the Alaska Dispatch News, 2016 was the state’s first year with a net jobs loss since 2009, a downturn partly driven by oil industry losses. That could offer an explanation for the decreasing number of employers filing LCAs, some of whom were hiring oil workers.

(4) The highest numbers of H1-B visa holders are mostly located on the East Coast

While large, populous states like California, Texas and New York regularly have the highest numbers of LCAs filed, other states along the East Coast are routinely home to high numbers of H1-B visa holders.

In Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Massachusetts, between 18,000 and 24,000 LCAs were filed per state last year. Boston, Massachusetts, in particular, relies heavily on H1-B visa holders – seeing 6,798 LCAs filed last year. H1-B employees in Boston made an average salary of $88,313 in 2016.

(5) Some southern cities now have more H1-B visa holders than Boston

In 2013, Boston had the eighth highest number of H1-B visa workers in the U.S. Now, Boston has moved down to 12th place. Southern cities have moved ahead in the rankings – Dallas, TX, Charlotte, NC and Irving, TX all saw higher numbers. Between 7,000 and 8,000 LCAs were filed in those states last year.