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2/18/2009
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Stimulus Package Makes It Harder To Hire H-1B Workers

The provisions are expected to affect new hires, not existing H-1B visa holders in the United States looking to renew their visas.

The $787 billion economic stimulus bill signed into law Tuesday by President Obama will make it more complicated for financial services companies and banks that received federal bailout money to hire foreign workers on H-1B visas.

The new stimulus package contains provisions that for two years deem all companies that received federal funding from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program that was signed into law last year as "H-1B dependent." Till now, "H-1B dependent" has been a category of employers for which H-1B visa holders represent 15% of more of their workforce.

H-1B-dependent companies have additional requirements when hiring H-1B visa workers. For instance, those companies have to attest they've made "good faith" efforts to recruit American workers for positions for which they're seeking H-1B talent, said Elizabeth Espin Stern, an attorney and leader of the global immigration practice of law firm Baker & McKenzie International.

Also, the employers must attest they're offered a minimum of "prevailing wages" during recruitment efforts, haven't displaced a U.S. worker within the 90 days before or after filing an H-1B petition, and have offered the job to an U.S. worker who applied and is equally or better qualified than the H-1B worker.

If those companies attest they've followed the rules but are later audited by the U.S. government and found to have violated the requirements, the employers face possible financial penalties and being banned from participating in the H-1B visa program, said Stern. The provisions are expected to impact new hires, not existing H-1B visa holders in the United States looking to renew their visas, she said.

It's estimated that in the financial services and banking sector, less than 1% of workers have H-1B visas, said Stern. So while the new provisions will make it more burdensome for financial services and banks that have received federal bailouts to hire H-1B visa workers, the new rules themselves aren't likely to make an sizable dent in the overall demand for H-1B visas, said Stern. The United States currently grants petitions for up to 85,000 new H-1B visas annually.

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