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Foreign workers sought for high-pay jobs

Associated Press / February 2, 2009
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Major banks sought permission to bring thousands of foreigners into the country for high-paying jobs even as the system was melting down last year and Americans were being laid off, according to an Associated Press review.

The dozen banks receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, requested visas for more than 21,800 foreign workers over the past six years, positions like corporate lawyers, junior investment analysts, and human resources specialists, at an average annual salary of $90,721.

As the economic collapse worsened last year, the number of H-1B visas visas sought by the dozen banks rose by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in the 2007 budget year to 4,163 in fiscal 2008. Such visas allow temporary employment of foreign workers in specialized-skill and advanced-degree positions. It is unclear how many foreign workers the banks actually hired. The government grants only 85,000 H1-B visas each year.

Foreigners are attractive because companies have found ways to pay them less: They use the lower end of government wage scales and hire younger people with lower salary demands, for example.

Nearly all banks the AP contacted declined to comment. A spokeswoman for State Street Corp., of Boston, which has received $2 billion in bailout money, said it has reduced H-1B hiring in recent years.

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