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Stimulus bill keeps H-1B hiring limits on bailout recipients

Patrick Thibodeau | Feb. 16, 2009
Opponents of the measure says it is so restrictive that affected financial services firms likely will stop hiring H-1B workers altogether.

Hira said the amount of outsourcing by Wall Street firms has actually increased since the bailout program began last fall, citing deals such as offshore outsourcer Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.'s October agreement to acquire a unit of Citigroup Inc. that does business process outsourcing and IT services work. Similarly, Wipro Ltd. agreed in December to buy Citigroup's IT subsidiary in India.

In addition, Hira contended that "many, if not all, of these banks have human resource practices where they force their American workers to train foreign replacements, and subsequently lay off the American workers." That practice "sometimes results in tragedy," he added, citing the 2003 suicide of a former Bank of America Corp. programmer who reportedly was laid off after training his replacement.

On the other hand, Charles Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, expressed disappointed at the inclusion of the hiring restrictions in the compromise stimulus bill.

"These banks will not able to hire qualified foreign talent to pull them out of this mess -- if that was necessary," Kuck said. "Maybe we've got all the homegrown talent we need to pull us out of this mess, because now we have to hope we do."

While the restrictions don't prevent employers from hiring H-1B holders, Kuck predicted that the affected firms will be unlikely to do so because of the added cost and work that will now be involved. The key advantage of the H-1B program, he said, is the ability it gives companies to quickly hire people to fill available jobs.

"There are very few employers that are going to wait that period of time to be able to do that [under the restrictions] when they have to bring somebody on board right away," Kuck said. "You are effectively saying, 'You can't use the program.'"

The big question, according to Kuck, is whether companies receiving TARP funds will be able to bring in "the best person available to do the job." That's a separate issue, he said, from the low-level work that typically is going to outsourcing firms.


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