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Can a Company like Infosys be Guilty?

In the news, Infosys has agreed to pay a $34 million in a settlement with US Justice Department in a case where it was found to have misused the B-1 visa. Workers can go to the US for on site work on an H1-B visa. The B-1 visa is a temporary restricted visa, it only allows visitors to attend meetings, training, or conferences. This visa doesn’t allow them to work on site.

Flying workers to client sites in the United States on temporary B-1 visas is a fraud. There are other IT companies that are also facing similar charges. “Infosys has denied and disputed any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage or immigration abuse. Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven,” Infosys said in a statement.

Now let us look at what happened.

An American worker employed by Infosys called Jay Palmer, discovered that some employees who had flown in from India were “freshers”, and they had no “special skills” that were not available in America. And to compound it they were not no valid H1-B but on B-1 visas. And so the story goes. The debate on news channels like CBS is totally one sided.  Some of the comments aired in an interview with Jay Palmer are as follows;

“Americans are losing jobs. Indian workers are being paid US $ 15000, per annum whereas an American worker would be paid $50-55000.”

“The company management is encouraging malpractices”

And finally;
“Does the Indian worker have any special skills that an American doesn’t?”
“No!”(how can he possibly have any? Ridiculous)

So basically it is as parochial and politically motivated a debate about protecting American jobs as any. A look at the coverage on CBS sounds almost like how a debate on our Hindi news channels would, if people were coming illegally from Bangladesh or even Pakistan!

The other unstated fact is that whistleblowing is lucrative, they make a lot of money. Why is this not being discussed?  Mr Palmer has insisted that freshers from India are coming to work on site. Is this ridiculous or what?. With a huge staff strength, will seniors waiting in the wings let fresher go on site to the US?

This would only happen if Infosys was short of employees, which it is not.

In its statement, Infosys said; Only .02 percent of the days that Infosys staff worked on U.S. projects last year were performed by people on B-1 visas. “The Company’s use of B-1 visas was for legitimate business purposes and not in any way intended to circumvent the requirements of the H-1B program,” the Bangalore-based company said.

This is supposedly a common issue amongst all the Indian IT service providers, just that Infosys had to deal with it. So does that make Infosys any less guilty? No certainly not.

However, Infy has been doing business for over 30 years, has clients of the likes of Goldman Sachs, Walmart, Bank of America. This is India’s second-largest IT services exporter, employs 15,000 people in the United States. For a company that gets almost 65% of its revenue from the US, is it likely that Infy would encourage fraud?

Infosys and other IT majors are listed on US Nasdaq, and if the stock takes a hit due to bad publicity, they know the losses will be huge.

We have seen very often the laws are undefined to be interpreted by the parties the way they like. This looks like one instance where the governments and companies don’t agree to what is strictly within the law.  May be the big corporations in the US will push for more liberal visa laws. Until then Infosys will pay its fine of 34 million.


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