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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Visa violation case: US likely to fine Infosys $35 million

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times  Washington, October 29, 2013
First Published: 19:33 IST(29/10/2013) | Last Updated: 02:38 IST(30/10/2013)

The US is expected to fine Infosys $35 million on Wednesday in a case of visa violations often cited by those who use it to accuse Indian tech firms of taking away American jobs.

Infosys is alleged to have manipulated travel documents to enable workers from India serve long tenures here in violation of visa rules, as a cheaper alternative to American workers.

US Attorney office of eastern district of Texas said a news conference had been called for Wednesday morning to announce the deal that will end the case.

But the Wall Street Journal said quoting unnamed officials that the government could announce a fine of $35 million at that news conference, to finally resolve the case.

Kenneth J Mendelsohn, counsel of Jay Palmer, Infosys employee whose allegations in 2011 triggered a probe,  refused to comment, directing questions to US attorney.

The resolution, whatever the outcome -- a fine or something more drastic, may have a bearing on the larger debate taking place in the US on immigration reforms.

Many here feel the visa regime ought to be tightened to deny Indian IT firms unfettered access to cheaper workers brought from home on temporary visas.

The current mood seems hostile with US economy struggling with indifferent employment numbers. A bill passed by senate punishes Indian firms dependent on Hi-B visas.

The House of Representatives, which is being pushed by President Barack Obama to pass a version of the senate bill -- any avatar -- has taken a milder view.

But it’s an open issue now, causing much grief in India.

Palmer had in 2011 alleged he was harassed by Infoys, and denied routine service benefits because he had pointed to irregularities in hiring of Indian co-workers.

Two years later, his allegations, which had started an investigation by the state department and the department of homeland security, formed the basis for another case.

A Wisconsin resident sued Infosys for discriminating against non-Indian and non-Asian workers earlier this year. More complainants have since joined the suit.

Infosys has denied the charge.

“In response to reports attributed to Justice Department officials, Infosys is in the process of completing a civil resolution with the government regarding its investigation of visa issues and I-9 documentation errors. The resolution has not been finalized,” it said in a statement.

“Infosys denies any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage, or immigration abuse. Those claims are untrue and only unproven assertions. 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. No criminal charges have been filed against the Company and no court rulings have been issued.”


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