Inside Infosys's alleged illegal visa practices

Whistle-blower claims giant Indian outsourcer is illegally importing low-paid tech workers using temporary visas

It's one thing to visit the United States to negotiate a business deal or participate in training and company meetings. Thousands of people do this every year, many using a B-1 visa to gain entry -- and it's hardly worth noticing. Or is it? A lawsuit by an Infosys employee alleges that the giant Indian outsourcer is committing fraud by using the temporary visas to import foreign workers who would normally have to be admitted under the more more stringent, and often-abused, H-1B visa program.

Jack Palmer, a 43-year-old IT pro in Lowndes County, Ala., filed the suit, claiming that he was disciplined and ostracized after declining to write fraudulent letters in support of visa applicants who were really planning to work in the United States for Infosys.

[ The H-1B visa program isn't going away, either, Bill Snyder reminds us. | Keep up to date on the key tech industry insights with InfoWorld's Industry Standard newsletter. ]

Palmer's charges are ugly. If they prove to be true, one of India's most important and respected companies will have been exposed for engaging in a pattern of deliberate fraud and tax evasion, all while thumbing its nose at laws designed to protect American workers.

Yes, that's outrageous, but there's more disturbing news this week about the use of foreign tech workers to undermine wages and working conditions. I've seen ads by two companies -- Newt Global of Texas and Digital-X of Sunnyvale, Calif. -- that are hosting job fairs in India to recruit workers to come to the United States on H-1B visas.

The job market is showing signs of improvement, in Silicon Valley at least, but with tens of thousands of IT workers still looking for work, recruiting foreign workers makes no sense at all. Still, it's not surprising.

American firms are doing all they can to squeeze costs, and the H-1Bs, designed to alleviate a labor shortage that no longer exists, are a tool to that end. What's so startling about Palmer's case is that Infosys is allegedly going a step further by using a visa that was never intended to bring workers into the country.

Before I go further, let me say that I do not -- and you should not -- blame the workers from India and other countries who seek those visas. Like us, they want good jobs and a better life for their families.

Infosys wavering in response
Earlier this month, Infosys essentially denied Palmer's accusations, saying:

While it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation, I can tell you that we stand by our 30-year legacy of transparency and integrity in every area of our business, a legacy that has earned Infosys respect from our clients, employees, shareholders and the communities where we do business.
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