Infosys, Wipro and TCS are among nine Indian firms which have been asked to disclose details about their workforce by two US lawmakers, who feel that the H-1B visa programme is being abused by foreign companies to displace qualified American workers.
As the US Senate gets ready to take up the comprehensive immigration reform legislation, top lawmakers, Republican Senator Charles Grassley and Democratic Senator Richard Durbin, said: "More and more it appears that companies are using H-1B visas to displace qualified, American workers."
"As we move closer to the debate on an immigration bill, I continue to hear how people want to increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to companies. Considering the high amount of fraud and abuse in the visa programme, we need to take a good, hard look at the employers who are using H-1B visas and how they are using them," Grassley said in a statement.
"Supporters claim the goal of the H-1B programme is to help the American economy by allowing companies to hire needed foreign workers. The reality is that too many H-1B visas are being used to facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs to other countries," Durbin said.
The two have written letters to the firms to determine if the programme is being used for its intended purpose, which is to fill a worker shortage for a temporary time period.
Besides Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services, the senators sent letters to Patni Computer Systems, I-Flex Solutions Inc, Satyam Computer, Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd, Tech Mahindra Americas Inc And Mphasis Corp.
In New Delhi, India's IT industry body Nasscom said it does not see the H1B visa issue as one related to immigration, but as something concerned with international trade.
It urged that "work permits and intra company transfers should not be inter-mingled and confused with immigration.
"Work permits are primarily a tool for facilitating trade and allow global companies to bring key staff to the US on temporary assignments..." Nasscom said.
Durbin said he expected the companies to cooperate and answer his questions to ensure accurate information is being used as Congress begins debate on new immigration policy. Senators Grassley and Durbin recently introduced a legislation that would overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to give priority to American workers and crackdown on unscrupulous employers who deprive qualified Americans of high-skill jobs.
The H-1B visa programme, which was launched in 1990, allows foreign scientists, engineers and technologists to be employed for up to six years in the US, at the end of which they must obtain permanent residency or return home.