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Trump's H1B visa suspension is causing issues on Wall Street

Financial services recruiters could do with a break. Banks like HSBC still have hiring freezes and despite signs of activity in areas like credit sales and trading, finance recruitment is still way below normal levels for this time of year.  There's a possibility that Trump's approach to H1B visas could change all this.

For those who haven't been following the debate, Trump has been rattling his saber about both H1B and L-1 visas issued to immigrant workers in the U.S.. The expectation is that he will soon sign an order suspending the issuance of new visas in both categories for the rest of this year. While there are some suggestions that the suspension won't impact people already in the country seeking visa renewals, this is by no means guaranteed. Faced with a blanket ban, Wall Street insiders say banks are already taking remedial action.

"H1Bs have basically become impossible to get," says a trader at a major U.S. bank in New York City, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are a number of people here whose visas are up and who are being let go. We have a few on my team."

Like technology firms, Wall Street banks are big users of H1B visas. Last year, Goldman Sachs applied for 1,146 H1B visas in New York (including renewals) according to the H1B visa database of figures provided by the U.S. government. That's a lot when you consider that Goldman only has 5,583 currently registered employees in New York according to FINRA. JPMorgan applied for 574 H1B visas in NYC in 2019, out of 9,408 FINRA registered employees currently. Morgan Stanley applied for 807 H1Bs in NYC 2019, and currently has 7,600 employees registered with FINRA in New York.

If existing bank employees find themselves unable to renew their H1B visas, the hope is that banks will hire-in some new ones without visa requirements. This could benefit Wall Street recruiters who could help fill all the vacancies. With anything from 6% to 20% of banks' staff at risk of losing visas, an H1B ban could fuel a lot of hiring. 

However, some search consultants say this is wishful thinking and that H1B renewals are still happening. "We're already having to find non-H1B candidates for new vacancies," says one Wall Street headhunter. "But if an employee is in the front office and is making good revenues, then banks will try very hard to get them an H1B extension." 

Even if Trump does take the extreme approach of banning new H1B visas and renewals, there's a risk that the policy could backfire. Some suggest that banks will simply cut jobs as H1B renewals become more challenging. "If a firm has structural or performance issues, problems renewing H1Bs may make employees on the visas sitting ducks for layoffs," says the headhunter, speaking off the record as it's a "very sensitive subject." Banning H1Bs could simply leave banks with structurally lower headcount, and both local and federal governments with structurally lower tax revenues.

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash




AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Fr
    Friend Only
    24 June 2020

    Many (not all) Indian managers in tech sector tend to hire only Indians on H1B because they can abuse the labor laws and H1B visa holders will comply without complaints. Many head hunters are also aware of the fact that there is corruption going on in hiring; the money trail is not in USA when you hire Indian workers. Fortunately, the corruption is primarily limited to the tech sector as other sectors have licensing requirements and incompetence can be easily exposed.

  • Ma
    24 June 2020

    Americans have only 2 options when it comes to IT jobs.1) outsourcing 2)insourcing. As an American in IT industry you have to compete with the fake contractor, indian managers and directors who fully support ethnicity based hiring and 3 IT people in India supporting that h1b contractor working on site here. Look at the jobs posting on these websites when it is h1b seasons. They abuse the companies to create fake jobs which anyone can do.
    This will not last. Americans don’t even know what is goin on. You take IT department of any company and just take a look at it. Tcs, cognizant infosys etc have made inroads and they have complete control over the IT jobs here. Soon the rate will be 15$ an hour.

  • PK
    23 June 2020

    While I agree that the abuse of H1B needs to stop and should not be used displace a native worker, it is wrong to paint everyone who works on an H1b visa, with the same broad brush. I was not born here but I obtained my master's degree from an US University. Most of the students there were from India, China or Iran but there were hardly any Americans. People don't want go to college because it is expensive and are afraid of student loans? I understand, but it wasn't terribly easy for me to be able afford an US degree either. I bet on myself and went ahead anyway.
    I faced denials and rejections from hundreds of companies only becuase of not being a US citizen or a Green Card holder. Even with those kind of odds, I had job offers with two companaies even before graduation and both of them were American companies. I do not believe that I have displaced any worthy American worker. I earned my job through my skills and after multiple rounds of interviews. I apply what I learned in school to improve the products of the company and make a difference every single day and I believe that is the reason why I was hired. I am proud of this fact. I am not going to apologize for working hard and proving my worth to get I want.
    Even now, I am not reluctant to upgrade my skills and stay relevant.
    Also, I do not work in IT. It appears to be a common misconception that H1Bis used exclusively by IT companies.

  • Pa
    23 June 2020

    H1Bs are modern day slavery. PERIOD.

    Companies enjoy the margins / profits they can make out of these candidate' skillset/slogging/less paid vacations and to an extend labor cost (they are not cheap as the general perception + each USCIS process costs $$$$ -e.g. an H1B extension cost a USCIS fee of $1960 (normal processing) and extensions can happen every 6 months based on the projects- if you are with an outsourcing firm + plus the enormous paper works involved).

    Co-workers love H1B team mates because they can share their not attractive tasks with H1Bs so that they will slog slog and find out solutions so that they can take credits later. Oh yeah, co-workers definitely will make sure that their knowledge will be the most hidden talent which cannot be shared with H1B. Also, not everyone but few would like to share their racial dominance. Immigration attorneys love these visas, primarily because they are their milking cows. It is really a income generation scheme by exploiting hope, uncertainties, decades worth wait for GC backlog clearance etc. Politicians love these folks, because neither these fellows have voting powers or lobbying powers, but they can be used to please few of your low IQed vote banks. advice to present and future H1Bs. You are doing a thankless job. You know that very well and don't complain.

    Country needs your sweat and hardwork to build better IT infrastructure, better shopping /entertainment/social media platforms, better healthcare /software products, better luxury products..but still, you are counted as slaves. So stop complaining.

    [ Off topic: By the way, as a hiring manager - I have been looking for Full-stack Java developers with kubernetes and docker experience last 18 months. All we could find from open market was DESI engineers. None of the American Skilled Engineers were available for the job. Where is the root cause ofthis issue ? Election stunts can't solve real problems ..

  • ma
    manish shah
    23 June 2020

    H1bs are easy targets as they are money bags for USCIS and vote bank politics for govt. They are legal residents, pay taxes and help sustain economy. You can’t ask for more from peaceful and friendly people whose interest is good for US. Why illegal immigrants are not targeted? because its hard to find American ready to work their ass off, and thats the reason for turning blind eye. There are examples of people resisting going back to work as they worked hard to get their unemployment and COVID benefits. Why would they go back if staying home and trading stocks is much fun then cancelling unemployment benefits?
    Suspending H1b program won’t fix unemployment issue. H1bs are far less in numbers that can be used as a tool to solve unemployment issue.

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