Amendment to Stimulus Bill Restricts Hiring of Internationals

Troubled financial institutions that recruit heavily from Harvard may soon face restrictions on hiring international students if they accepted federal bailout funding.

Under a recently passed amendment to the federal stimulus bill, companies participating in the Troubled Assets Relief Program—a government financial-rescue plan implemented last fall—will face more restrictions in hiring H-1B visa holders, foreigners with at least a bachelor’s degree and “highly specialized knowledge” in a particular field.

Firms affected by the amendment—including nearly all large investment banks—have consistently hired from Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School in past years, prompting Harvard’s lobbyists to push for a loose interpretation of the restrictions.

Firms that have accepted TARP funds would be required to demonstrate that they have made concerted efforts to employ and avoid laying off U.S. citizens before hiring H-1B visa holders, said Kevin Casey, the University’s chief lobbyist.

“It may be that employment horizons are slightly smaller for those graduating from some of these programs,” Casey said.

Roughly one third of MBA candidates at the Business School are international students, and 45 percent of MBA students enter the financial services industry upon graduation.

University Provost Steven E. Hyman recently voiced opposition to the restrictions in a letter to Congressman Michael E. Capuano, who represents Cambridge in the U.S. House. Hyman wrote last month that it was important to keep jobs open to all recent graduates, regardless of their country of origin.

“Now more than ever, our country needs to capture the talents of our brightest graduates to work to turn around these troubled industries,” he wrote.

Casey said the impact of the amendment on Harvard’s sizable international student body is still unclear, as the number of students employed by investment banks fluctuates every year.

In addition, the restriction on H-1B visa holders may not apply to those who are hired while holding a student visa but later apply for an H-1B, Casey said, an interpretation Harvard officials are lobbying the Department of Labor to recommend.

Kurt Piemonte, an associate director of career services at the Business School, wrote in an e-mailed statement that companies looking to pick up their newest recruits are “hopeful” that the statute will be interpreted in their favor, but remain in a state of limbo for the time being.

“TARP recipient employers are rightly concerned that this new language is counterproductive to helping the United States and the world recover from the current economic crisis,” Piemonte wrote.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at junewu@fas.harvard.edu.