Worried that a visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers is being abused to displace higher paid Americans, two US senators on Monday asked nine Indian companies (or the US subsidiaries of these companies in some cases) to explain how they are using the work permits.
Senate assistant majority leader Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in letters to the companies that they had received reports of fraud and abuse of the H-1B visa programme that allows companies to bring highly skilled workers into the US.
The companies the senators sent letters to were Infosys Technologies, Wipro Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Patni Computer Systems, i-flex Solutions Inc., Satyam Computer Services Ltd, Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd, Tech Mahindra Americas Inc. and Mphasis Corp.
“More and more it appears that companies are using H-1B visas to displace qualified American workers,” Grassley said in a statement.
The senators said some visas were being used to train foreign workers in the US to perform jobs that were later transferred to India and other countries.
High tech firms are pushing Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas as a part of a comprehensive immigration reform lawmakers are currently negotiating.
They argue they are short of qualified scientists and computer programmers. The senators said Congress needs a better idea of how the visas are being used before increasing the number. At least 65,000 H-1B visas are allotted each year. The nine companies accounted for 20,000 of the visas available last year, the senators said.
The senators asked the companies for information on the number of visas they hold, wages, efforts to recruit qualified American workers, outsourcing of jobs to other countries and whether any US workers have had their responsibilities outsourced.
The senators have introduced legislation aimed at protecting US workers and limiting the ability of companies to use the visas to train workers with the aim of shifting jobs overseas. Aides said the measure would be offered as an amendment to comprehensive immigration legislation that the Senate could take up as early as this week.