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'Infosys indulged in blatant violation of visa laws'

October 31, 2013 13:22 IST

'Infosys indulged in blatant violation of visa laws'

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Lalit K Jha in Washington

Federal prosecutors have alleged that IT major Infosys indulged in blatant violation of immigration laws by not only bringing its employee inside the country on a visa which does not permit work, but also issuing specific directions to its workers to mislead the immigration officials on their point of entry on their nature of work.

"To circumvent the requirements, limitations, and governmental oversight of the H-1B visa programme, Infosys committed visa fraud by knowingly and unlawfully using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labour in order to fill positions in the United States for employment that would otherwise be performed by United States citizens or require legitimate H-1B visa holders, the US Attorney, John M Bales said.

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Image: Employees talk as they stand next to flex board poster of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy at the Start-up Village in Kinfra High Tech Park in Kochi.
Photographs: Sivaram V/Reuters

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This was for the purposes of increasing profits, minimising costs of securing visas, increasing flexibility of employee movement, obtaining an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoiding tax liabilities," Bales, said in his complaint, which was released to the press after Infosys agreed to pay $34 million to settle the charges.

Infosys also failed to monitor the status of foreign nationals that they had sponsored for travel and placement in the United States by failing to maintain accurate I-9 forms and records for each foreign national as required by law, Bales said.

As a matter of practice, Bales alleged, Infosys submitted ‘invitation letters’ to US Consular Officials that contained materially 'false' representations regarding the true purpose of a B-1 visa holder’s travel in order to deceive US Consular Officials and/or Customs and Border Protection Officers and secure entry of the visa holder into the United States.

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Image: SD Shibulal, chief executive officer of Infosys, speaks during the announcement of the company's quarterly financial results at their headquarters in Bengaluru October 11, 2013.
Photographs: Reuters

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'Infosys indulged in blatant violation of visa laws'

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“These  'invitation letters' often stated that the purpose of travel was for ‘meetings’ or ‘discussions’ when the true purpose was to engage in activities not authorised under a B-1 visa,” he said.

Giving an example, Bales said an invitation letter submitted on or about July 3, 2008, relating to an individual identified as MG, stated that the purpose of the trip was for ‘customer discussions and related business development activities,’ when, in fact, as known by Infosys, the purpose of the trip was to engage in activities not authorised under a B-1 visa, which included, but was not limited to, coding and programming.

In his complaint running into nine pages, Bales has sought to provide many such examples.      

Reacting to the charges, Infosys, however, denied any visa fraud and misuse.

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Image: Narayana Murthy.
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Bales , B-1

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'Infosys indulged in blatant violation of visa laws'

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In a statement on Wednesday, Infosys had said it ‘has completed a civil settlement that concludes investigation by the US Attorney's Office for Eastern District of Texas and resolves all issues with the US Department of State, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and US Department of Homeland Security relating to I-9 paperwork errors and visa matters. . .’

Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment authorisation of individuals hired for employment in the US.

"There were no criminal charges or court rulings against the company. Furthermore, there are no limitations on the company's eligibility for federal contracts or access to US visa programmes as a result of the settlement", the Bengaluru-based company said.

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Photographs: Reuters

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"In the settlement, Infosys agreed to pay $34 million to resolve all allegations, for which the company had already taken a reserve of $35 million which included attorney's fees," Infosys said in the statement.

Meanwhile, Bales further alleged that Infosys provided instructions to B-1 visa holders regarding how to deceive US Consular Officials and/or Customs and Border Protection Officers, including specific direction regarding the avoidance of certain terminology, the avoidance of contract terms, and the use of misleading job titles, in order to secure entry of the visa holder into the United States.

Examples from a “Do’s and Don’ts” memorandum provided by Infosys to foreign nationals entering the United States on a B-1 visa included directions like -- “Do not mention activities like implementation, design & testing, consulting, etc., which sound like work.”; “Also do not use words like, [sic] work, activity, etc., in the invitation letter,” and “Please do not mention anything about contract rates.”.

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Image: Narayana Murthy.
Photographs: Reuters

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Infosys directed foreign nationals to inform US Consular Officials and/or Customs and Border Protection Officers that their destination in the United States was the same as that provided in the Labour Condition Application.

However, Infosys and the foreign nationals knew that the foreign nationals had been assigned to other destinations in the United States, Bales alleged.

 “This was done in order to secure entry of the visa holder into the United States without requiring the submission of an additional Labor Condition Application and to avoid additional scrutiny by US officials,” he said.

For example on November 26, 2008, Infosys directed an individual to tell US Consular Officials that he was destined for Seattle, Washington, consistent with the Labor Condition Application; however, his true destination was Henrico, Virginia, he said.

 


Photographs: Reuters

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