Inside Infosys's alleged illegal visa practices

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

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The company's response to my query this week was somewhat different:

We are currently in the midst of a detailed internal review to understand whether inappropriate actions were taken in the visa application process. We are moving as quickly as possible on this important work. Upon conclusion of the review, we will address in an appropriate manner any legitimate issues that are revealed as a result of our work. Meanwhile, we have taken additional steps to ensure that all Infosys employees involved with the visa application process and those Infosys employees traveling to the United States are acting consistent with the law and with company policy.

I have no idea why Infosys sounds less certain that the allegations are untrue, but the shift in tone is interesting.

How to beat the system
The heart of Palmer's complaint involves the allegation that "Infosys was sending lower level and unskilled foreigners to the United States" to work in full-time positions. He also claims that Infosys was paying them in India for full-time work in the United States without withholding federal or state income taxes.

According to the suit, an American employee of Infosys had to write a so-called welcome letter stating that the employee was coming to the United States for meetings rather than to hold down a job. The letter was needed to help the employees obtain B-1 visas. Palmer was asked to write them, but declined because the claims in the letter appeared untrue.

Palmer's attorney, Kenneth Mendelsohn, sent me a copy of a sample welcome letter and a list of "dos and don'ts" he says were posted on an internal Infosys site. He also sent them to journalist Dan Rather, the former CBS anchor, who posted them online.

I can't confirm that these documents are genuine, but Mendelsohn, whose credibility would be destroyed if he deliberately circulated a false document, assures me that they are. You'll notice that the documents are rife with grammatical errors; it was part of Palmer's job to clean them up, Mendelsohn said. Here are a few of the points listed in the guidelines:

  • "Kindly make sure that the duration of the trip mentioned in the invite letter should not exceed BEYOND 4-6 weeks at any point of time"
  • "Do not mention activities like implementation, design & testing, consulting etc., which sound like work."
  • "Also do not use words like work, activity, etc., in the invitation letter."
  • "Please do not mention anything about the contract rates as your [sic] on a B-1 Visa"

After raising objections to the letters and reporting his concerns to the company's "Whistleblower Team," Palmer says he was called on the carpet, subject to ugly, harassing phone calls, and deprived of various bonuses and overtime pay. He is, however, still employed by Infosys and his suit is starting to move through the courts.

Meanwhile, there is pressure on Congress to re-examine the visa issue. If you care about the issue -- and if you work in IT, you should -- let your representative know what you think.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Inside Infosys's alleged illegal visa practices," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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