Romanian student Andrei Brasoveanu ’09, who accepted a job offer from Merrill Lynch after interning with the company last summer, was told three weeks ago that his offer had been rescinded due to the Employ American Workers Act (EAWA).
“My own situation worries me less than the message the new policy sends to international students,” Brasoveanu said. “It seems we are walking away from an age where achievement and merit matter to an age dominated by political interests. Protectionist policies make little economic sense, [and] they ultimately harm those who are supposed to benefit from them.”
The EAWA was signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The act prohibits most businesses that have received funds from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) from hiring foreign workers. Bank of America, which acquired Merrill Lynch last September, has received $45 billion in TARP funds and is therefore subject to these conditions.
This restriction applies to many of Princeton’s international students, whose F-1 student visas do not allow for long-term employment in the United States. Students wishing to remain in the United States must obtain H-1B visas, for which an applicant must have a bachelor’s degree and employer sponsorship. H-1B visas are generally capped at 65,000 per fiscal year, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website.
“This policy is no different from any other form of discrimination,” Brasoveanu said of the EAWA stipulations. “Foreigners pay taxes in the U.S. as Americans do. There is no reason for them to be at a disadvantage in the labor market.”
Veda Sunassee ’10, a student from Mauritius, said he thought the regulations might actually be harmful to the U.S. economy.
“It’s kind of going against ... the whole idea of using the best people for the best jobs,” he explained. “It’s only Americans who will get those jobs, even those Americans who might not be as good as some internationals.”
Though Bank of America had “very much looked forward to” hiring international interns like Brasoveanu, they had no choice in the matter, Bank of America spokeswoman Sara Bloomquist said in an e-mail to The Daily Princetonian.
“Recent changes in legislation made it necessary for Bank of America to rescind job offers it had made to students requiring H-1B sponsorship,” she explained.
Sunassee, who said he is not planning to pursue a career in finance, noted that he knew many international students interested in banking.
“The finance sector is really international,” he explained. “It’s not just an American thing, because it overlaps so much in different countries, as we’ve seen in this financial meltdown.”
Hong Kong native Anthony Chang ’10, however, said he thought the restrictions were reasonable.
“It makes sense to hire locals. I mean, there’s less risk for the companies. If you’re not from this country, there’s a bigger chance [you] might go home and leave the firm,” he explained. “America has enough human capital to fill the banking positions, so it makes sense to protect job opportunities for the locals.”
The EAWA permits employers who declare themselves “H-1B dependent” to sponsor visa applications for certain job openings if they have made “good faith efforts” to recruit American workers and foreigners who are already authorized to work in the United States.
This exception does not apply to Bank of America, which is “not an H-1B dependent employer” since less than 1 percent of its employee base is composed of H-1B workers, Bloomquist said.
The Office of Career Services has noted the new visa restrictions and is currently offering several special programs for international students looking for work, Anthony Chiappetta, associate director for recruitment and employer relations, said in an e-mail.
“Career Services has been in contact with employers that have been impacted by the terms and conditions associated with the acceptance of TARP money,” he explained.
“We encourage any student who has been affected by this situation to contact us directly for assistance,” Chiappetta said. “Because each student’s employment needs are different, we work on a case-by-case basis in developing an individualized action plan to help them in their job search.”