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March 03, 2009

Watchful Waiting for H-1B Visa Hopefuls

Catherine New
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Over the last two weeks, international students and foreign nationals working in the United States under H-1B visas have been forced to grapple with a new reality: under a provision in President Obama’s recently passed stimulus package, they may not be able to continue working in the U.S. (View a list of H-1B employers in 2008.)

The provision, which calls for limits on hiring H-1B visa holders, affects firms that have accepted TARP funds. Major TARP recipients include Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, JPMorgan Chase, American Express and Goldman Sachs among others. (View the compete list of TARP recipients.)

In response, Dean Glenn Hubbard has written letters to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council head Larry Summers to express deep concern over the provision and how it will be implemented.

“This is absolutely terrible,” the dean told students in a town hall meeting last Thursday. “It gives an advantage to international institutions over American institutions,” he said. The dean did sound a note of optimism, saying, “I believe [the problem] will get fixed.”

It is still unclear how the provision will affect students looking to enter the workforce. Thomas Monaco, director of international advising and outreach, says that recruiters have not yet indicated any changes in their strategies. The School’s Career Management Center is in contact with all of its recruiters and peer schools to continue to monitor developments.

“Many of our recruiters are still translating the legislation,” Monaco says. “Right now it is very much a wait and see situation.”

International students comprise approximately one-third of the class of 2009. Some of those with student visas can stay in the United States for one year after graduation for optional practical training. However, workers who need or have H-1B visas still face some uncertainties.

“The School is doing everything possible to act as advocates where we can and stay abreast of developments as they occur,” says Monaco.

The provision has generated concern throughout financial and academic communities alike. Last month at a conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, Columbia professor and economist Jagdish Bhagwati commented on the loss in talent that will occur if the provision is upheld. “In terms of broader considerations like the people who are coming in on H-1B visas,” Bhagwati said, “they’re frequently highly trained and talented people … a lot of our progress and prosperity depend on having such people.”

Photo credit: Columbia Business School

Comments

by Vyom | March 09, 2009 at 12:07 PM

It is really a shame that Prez has done something like this. This sounds more like a vote bank gimmick. Trying to protect US jobs !! And the worse is that today BoFA has started the trend. They withdrew all foreign offers citing these reasons. Other companies will follow the trend. The pressure is building in the UK as well for a similar law. Does it really help? Why not they drill into the figures more properly? Perhaps they do not want to. Not only a loss of talent, but what if other countries start following this conservative policy. What about China/India/Taiwan stopping their production lines? What about American public paying 3000$ for a washing machine produced in the country. the US cannot have best of both worlds. They want cheap goods right from Sofa to TV, from IT workers to Doctors, but do not want to let them take anything in return. Perhaps someone needs a lesson on Barter system, the basic commerce principle.

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