Contending that the H-1B visa programme is being abused to displace qualified American workers, two US lawmakers have asked nine foreign-based firms, including some leading Indian companies that used 20,000 of such visas, to disclose details about their workforce and their use of the special programme.
As the US Senate gets ready to take up the comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the two 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 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," Senator 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.
The companies the senators sent letters to were Infosys Technologies, Wipro Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Patni Computer Systems, I-Flex Solutions Inc., Satyam Computer Services Ltd., Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd., Tech Mahindra Americas Inc. and Mphasis Corp.
"We have to look at the system that generates these visas and the way they are used. This legislation will help protect American workers first by stopping H-1Bs from being exploited and used as outsourcing visas," Durbin said.
He said that he expects 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 legislation that would overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to give priority to American workers and crack down 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 upto six years in the US, at the end of which they must obtain permanent residency or return home.
Information that is being asked of the companies are on the number of visas they hold, wages, efforts to recruit qualified American workers, outsourcing of jobs to other countries and whether any U.S. Workers have had their responsibilities outsourced.
"... We have been concerned about reported fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L visa programmes, and their impact on American workers. We are also concerned that the programme is not being used as Congress intended," the lawmakers have said in their letter to company executives.
While some members of Congress have focused on increasing the annual cap of the H-1B programme, "we believe it is important to understand how H-1B visas are being used by companies".
The two lawmakers said they have received helpful data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service with regard to H-1B visa approvals in 2006 for the top 200 participating companies.
"Your company was one of the top companies on the list. Therefore, we are requesting your cooperation in providing additional statistics and information on your use of H-1B visa workers," the Senators have said in the letter.
"... Some groups, such as the Programmers Guild, have analysed the wages paid to H-1B visa holders. They have found that the average annual salary of foreign workers is significantly lower than that of new graduates... A number of consulting firms reportedly recruit foreign workers and then outsource the individuals to other job sites or companies" the law makers have maintained.
"... A number of firms have allegedly laid off American workers while continuing to employ H-1B visa holders.
"The American people are concerned about such lay offs at a time when the demand for visa issuances and the recruitment of foreign workers appear to be increasing," said the senators who have asked the companies some questions on numbers, wages, outsourcing and layoffs with a requested reply date of May 29, 2007.