Wall Street and Big Four Salaries Are Under Pressure By Immigration Debate

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Wall Street banks and Big Four accounting firms rely heavily on H-1B consultancies to do more than just cheaply run their behemoth computer systems in the U.S. where older and expensive local employees are being edged out. These companies are also looking abroad for investment bankers, analysts and accountants, bringing the wage competition of globalization to a once insulated segment of the American workforce.

These financial services giants are seeking thousands of H-1B visas - which allow firms to recruit foreigners with specialist skills in the U.S. - but the actual number of outsourced employees they will hire is a fraction of that. An immigration bill currently being debated by the U.S. Senate would raise the annual cap on H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000, with an option to increase to 180,000 a year, a move that opponents claim would drive down wage growth.

The demand for H-1B visas is so intense that the federal government is using a lottery to dole them out. It costs a company about $6,000, including legal fees, to file an application, but the ultimate savings of hiring a skilled foreign worker over a U.S. resident is considerable over a short amount of time. It also lowers the average salary for jobs in what have been traditionally high paying sectors.

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According to a Brookings Institution report released Tuesday, H-1B visa allocation ebbs and flows with economic cycles, hitting highs from 2001 to 2003 when Congress temporarily raised the cap to 195,000 per year.

The Congressional Budget Office says that if the reform passes in its current form, it would increase the U.S. population of temporary foreign workers and their families by 1.6 million over ten years. The U.S. has a much lower ratio of temporary foreign workers than most of the world, and this would not change that.

Financial services is banking on winning the lottery for thousands of IT jobs, but also for roles coveted by U.S. workers and MBA graduates who are increasingly struggling to land jobs on Wall Street.

Deloitte Consulting this year has applied for 4,735 H-1B visas for roles throughout the U.S. including senior consultant, analyst and analytics business analyst with an average salary of $98,305, and Deloitte Touche has sponsored 1,829 applications for accounting and auditing jobs paying an average of $73,898 throughout the country, according to myvisajobs.com. Ernst & Young has applied for 2,316 paying an average of $86,428. Pricewaterhousecoopers recently withdrew two applications but is still looking to sponsor 603 mostly associate jobs nationwide offering an average of $71,616. KPMG has sought 463 visas and will pay outsourced associates an average of $90,884.

J.P. Morgan Chase is seeking 952 H-1B visas for jobs including investment bank operations analyst and analytical engineer, with an average pay of $105,927. Citigroup has 723 applications for analyst jobs, mostly in New York and Jersey City, paying an average of $106,808. Bank of America wants 640 H-1B visas for roles across the U.S. including financial analyst and vice president with an average salary of $103,760. Goldman Sachs has 605 applications for jobs including analyst mostly in New York and Jersey City with average pay of $113,193. Barclays Capital is looking to outsource 596 roles including investment banking and fixed income analysts in New York, offering to pay even more than Goldman, an average of $118,981.

Other big banks that have applied for H-1B visas include Credit Suisse, with 445 applications and an average salary of $110,483 and Deutsche Bank with 418 and an average pay of $111,644.

Capgemini Financial Services has applied for 589 H-1B visas for mostly consultant jobs with an average salary of $88,283, and wants to outsource 584 consultant jobs paying an average of $110,519.

There’s still incentive for foreign big data talent to flock to the Silicon Valley tech titans rather than Wall Street, with Google offering an average paycheck of $126,789 to the 1,714 H-1B applicants, and Apple promising an average of $122,787 to 979 potential outsourced hires.

Follow the author on Twitter @natashagural

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