Wells Fargo & Co. is deciding on a “case-by-case basis” whether to renew the sponsorship of employees working in the U.S. on so-called H-1B visas, a spokeswoman said today.
The economic stimulus package passed in February makes it more difficult for banks that have received government aid to hire new foreign workers. But the San Francisco-based bank's policy applies to employees already working at the company. Wells acquired Charlotte's Wachovia Corp. last year.
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H-1B visas allow U.S. companies to hire specialized workers, particularly in technology fields. Backers say the visas let employers tap needed talent, while critics say companies use them to hire less expensive workers from overseas.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Eshet said the company's “approach has always been to find the talent and skills we need in the United States whenever possible.” Less than .04 percent of the bank's 281,000 employees work under H-1B sponsorships.
How many workers will lose their jobs under the policy is unclear. One employee familiar with the policy said it was already affecting workers here in Charlotte. Business Web site Martketwatch today reported that some Wells employees have received e-mails from the company informing them that their visas will not be renewed.
"Due to the fact that we have and will be displacing numerous U.S. citizens in your same positions Wells Fargo has decided to enforce a policy that prohibits lines of businesses to file visa sponsorships for foreign nationals that would hold positions that could otherwise be held by qualified U.S. citizens,” an e-mail obtained by Marketwatch said.
Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp. has previously said it was rescinding job offers to students that required H-1B sponsorship. A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether current employees would be affected. The bank said less than 1 percent of its 301,000 employees require H-1B visas.
Wells has received $25 billion from the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Bank of America has taken $45 billion.