Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Infosys to counter visa misuse charge in US

Gobal software major Infosys Technologies Ltd is reviewing its procedures to counter the charge of misusing B1 business visas to the US, a senior company official said on Wednesday.

"We are in the midst of internal review of procedures/processes to respond to a US court notice on business visas. We will also cooperate with the investigation into the issues raised by the US Department of Justice," Infosys co-chairman S Gopalakrishnan said.

Admitting that the company had received a subpoena (directive) on May 23 from a district court in Texas for appearance, Gapalakrishnan said it was not the first time the company was facing such a charge and expressed confidence of clearing its position.

"As we are a listed firm even in the US on Nasdaq, we have informed the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) that we would soon submit our appropriate response to the court notice and the justice department," Gopalakrishnan affirmed.

One of its employees, Jack Palmer, in an Alabama court in February alleged that the company was sending low-level employees from India to the US to work in full-time posts at its customer sites against the immigration laws.

The US immigration authorities issue B1 visas for short-term visits to attend business seminars and restrict employees from engaging in gainful employment during their stay.

Though the $6-billion Indian IT bellwether did not yet receive summons directly from the justice department on the investigation it was carrying out on the visa violation charges, the company has decided to clarify its viewpoint to clear the air by informing the regulatory.

"Transparent and ethical way of conducting business being our hallmark, at no time have we violated state laws or procedures in any country. We have always gone by the rulebook and operated within the regulatory framework," a company official said, but declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak to media.

Declining to comment on reasons for ordering investigation into the company's use of B1 business visas, the official in the company's human resource department said since the tech meltdown in the aftermath of global recession, demand for US visas under various categories had slumped substantially.

"With increasing offshoring and outsourcing due to convergence of technologies and paradigm shift in business models, the Indian IT services sector has not been utilizing the full quota of visas, be it H-1B, L1 or B1," the official pointed out.

According to the May 23 disclosure made to the SEC, the parent company has about 10,000 of its software engineers on H-1B visas and 2200 on L1 working in the US.

Referring to the complaint lodged by its employee, the official said there was no such violation and had sufficient documentary evidence to allay the charges.

In the SEC filing, the company, however, agreed that any action by the US government against it in this regard would seriously affect its business in the North America market, which accounts for about 60 percent of its export revenue.

"In the event of the US government taking action, which limit the B1 business visa programme or other visa programme that we utilise, it will materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations," the company said in the filing.

In April, US Senator Charles E. Grassley submitted a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US cretary of Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano seeking an investigation into the use of the visa programme.

"I'm very concerned about fraudulent actions that at least one foreign-based company has allegedly been taking in order to get around the requirements and US worker protections of the H-1B visa programme," Grassley wrote in the letter, citing the complaint by Palmer against Infosys.

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