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Testimony before US Senate targets Infosys

Testimony before US Senate targets Infosys
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First Published: Tue, Jul 26 2011. 01 15 AM IST
Updated: Thu, Jul 28 2011. 01 13 PM IST
New Delhi: Infosys Ltdcustomers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Johnson Controls Inc., Goldman Sachs and American Express Co. (AmEx), could be dragged into the controversy over alleged violations of visa rules by the company.
According to testimony by whistle-blower Jack Palmer before a US Senate Congress subcommittee on Tuesday, these companies hosted on their work sites multiple B-1 visa holders who were working as full-time Infosys employees, which is in direct violation of US immigration law.
These hearings are significant because the committee members influence the forthcoming legislation on US immigration reform.
An Infosys spokeswoman declined comment.
Wal-Mart, Johnson Control, Goldman Sachs and American Express could not be immediately reached for comment.
The testimony, given at a hearing before the immigration subcommittee on “the economic imperative for enacting immigration reform” is the first time that Palmer has come out publicly on issues relating to his lawsuit against Infosys filed in February. He has accused the firm of sending Indian workers to the US to work full time in violation of American immigration law as a profit-making strategy.
The suit led to an ongoing us department of justice investigation as to whether the company has been using business visas—short-term, non-work visas issued to people coming to the US for such purposes as attending meetings or seminars—instead of proper work visas.
Infosys had earlier stated that it is complying with the investigation.
In Tuesday’s testimony, Palmer elaborated on the scale of Infosys’ alleged violations and further claimed that he had received evidence that other Indian firms were doing similar things. “My attorney and I have received over 40 correspondences from individuals at other Indian companies stating that the same type of H-1B and B1 fraud is being committed,” he said.
According to Palmer, since he filed the suit against Infosys in February he has obtained information from other Infosys employees regarding “illegal B1 workers at Wal-Mart, Johnson Control, Goldman Sachs, American Express and other customers”, including a list of workers in India with B1 status and their availability to come to the Johnson Control project for work.
Palmer alleged that Infosys had created an open computer system—accessible by any Infosys employee—to create “fraudulent work letters” for B-1 visa-holding employees, who would subsequently be issued debit cards to pay them their Indian salary and to cover expenses for the duration of their work in the US. After obtaining a work invitation letter from a client—which would “falsely set out the reasons for the visit”—and securing the contract, Infosys would send the employee to the US to work full time on client sites.
“It is important to note that this equates to thousands of people coming over and not paying taxes even though they are ‘gainfully employed’,” Palmer said. According to Palmer, B1 visa holders were paid approximately $15,000 rather than the $60,000-plus per year minimum required of H-1B visa holders, although the company charged customers for full-time wages. No taxes were paid on any of these workers, he said.
Palmer also stated that Infosys had created an internal website dedicated to outlining “do’s and don’ts”, which were tips on how to get employees successfully through visa interviews and US immigration “undetected”, which included such tips as: “Do not mention activities like implementation, design and 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 you’re on a B-1 visa.”
According to Palmer, Infosys tried to maximize the number of H-1B visas given to their employees by flooding the consulate with more than 7,000 visa applications.
“This was totally about profit and not hiring Americans for jobs in the US due to higher salary requirements,” he said, sourcing his statement to current and former Infosys human resources staff members.
Also testifying were representatives from interested organizations and companies such as Nasdaq, Microsoft Corp., public officials from New York and Maine, and policy analysts.
malia.p@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Jul 26 2011. 01 15 AM IST