In a year when sustained unemployment in the US is threatening to raise the rhetoric against India’s outsourcing sector, Infosys Technologies is facing tax and visa fraud charges in the top market for software exports after an employee filed a case against the company last week.
Jack Palmer, who has been working with the company as a principal consultant since August 2008, has filed a complaint with the Alabama Court saying the company was sending employees on B1 visas to work full time in the US, though the visa is only meant for visitors who come for meetings, conferences and business negotiations.
In his complaint, he has also accused Infosys of not paying federal and state taxes in the US. The US is the most crucial market for Infosys from where it draws over 60% of its revenues. About 15,000 are employed by the company in that country.
Palmer said Infosys had asked him to come down to its headquarters in Bangalore to devise ways to overcome the restrictions on H1B visas that had been put in 2009. He was also asked to write “welcome letters” for Indian employees so they could come on B1 visas.
An Infosys spokesperson said he could not comment on the matter as it was sub judice and the company would defend itself.
Palmer said he had taken up the matter with the company’s corporate counsel Jeff Friedel and that subsequently a manager from India confirmed the violations but asked him to keep things quite. Friedel also confirmed the fraud to him, Palmer said in his complaint.
Palmer said he had also filed a complaint with the ‘Whistleblower team’ which did not investigate the matter thoroughly and that he had been receiving threatening phone calls from the company and was “subjected to constant harassment, threats, and retaliation”.
A company executive said on condition of anonymity that this was a case filed by a disgruntled employee and that a company as transparent as Infosys did not have reason to worry. The executive also said he did not see this impacting the company’s image in the US in any way.
Experts say Indian players need to be more careful of how they are using these visas than ever before as matters such as these could make the regulations around visas even tighter.
“If, in fact, the US policy regarding work visas is getting tighter, the integrity of outsourcing companies in applying for visas becomes even more important. Even the appearance of misuse or ‘stretching’ the rules can have consequences and could create a self-fulfilling direction of even tighter rules in the future. Taming the system will only make the system more difficult to work with in the long run. Therefore, companies that maintain the highest level of integrity in approaching the visa issue will likely benefit in the long run,” Rodney Nelsestuen, senior research director at research & consulting firm Towergroup said.
Immigration experts such as Morley J Nair say US consulates have already made it tougher for Indian professionals to get work permits. “Going by anecdotal evidence, the rate of denials seems to have gone up substantially at US consulates, especially at consulates in India. Even if visas are issued, often they are issued only after applicants are put through a gruelling process to present more elaborate evidence about the US employment,” Nair said.
He added that Indian companies will need to hire more locally in order to avoid regulatory and other challenges.
“The logical conclusion is that if employers are able to hire candidates from US campuses, the ‘hazards’ of US consulate interviews and overbearing questioning at US entry points can be avoided, at least in the short term, i.e., until they have to travel overseas again and obtain visas to re-enter the US,” he said.