An investigation by the Associated Press revealed that major U.S. banks brought in foreign workers for high paying jobs while laying off American workers at the same time. The investigation revealed that a dozen banks requested visas for 21,800 foreign workers over a six-year span with an average annual salary of more than $90,000.

The report also revealed that the 12 banks investigated increased the number of visas sought by one-third from 2007 to 2008. The H-1B visa requests were for temporary employment of foreign workers with specialized skills and advanced degrees.

Companies choose to hire foreign workers because they can usually pay them a lower salary. They have to pay them a fair wage, but they can hire younger workers who demand less money and can set pay at the low end of the government wage scales.

"The system provides you perfectly legal mechanisms to underpay the workers," said John Miano of Summit, N.J., a lawyer who has analyzed the wage data and started the Programmers Guild, an advocacy group that opposes the H-1B system in the AP report.

The 12 banks that requested the increased number of visas is unknown, but the Associated Press is pressing United States Immigration Services to release the names under the Freedom of Information Act. More than $150 billion of bailout money has been given to banks since the economic collapse last fall.

For more information in this investigation, see the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
American workers
H-1B visas