US investigating visa errors from Indian tech-giant Infosys

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The US Department of Homeland Security is currently investigating Infosys, an Indian global technology services company, for "errors in a significant percentage" of US visa applications submitted by the company.

According to Infosys, the Department of Homeland Security is currently reviewing their verifications of employee work visa applications on the I-9 form. The I-9 form is used by an employer to verify an employee's identity and to certify that the worker is eligible to accept employment in the US. Every employee hired has to complete an I-9 form at the time of hire.

Last week the company confirmed they were being investigated over concerns of misuse of US visa applications for its workforce. They did not say what the potential cost of any fines or penalties might be if they were found guilty of misusing the US visas. Failing to comply with Form I-9 requirements carries a penalty of $110 (minimum) to $1,100 (maximum) for each form.

"In light of the fact that, among other things, the foregoing investigation and review are ongoing and we remain in discussions with the US Attorney's Office regarding these matters, we are unable to make an estimate of the amount or range of loss that we could incur from unfavourable outcomes in such matters," Infosys said.

After the US Department of Homeland Security confirmed it had found the errors in the visa applications from Infosys, shares in the Mumbai-based company fell by 4 percent.

Infosys is currently fighting allegations in US courts that it misused temporary B-1 visitor visas to send low-cost workers to the US. The US B-1 visa is designed to allow foreigners to come to the US for meetings or conferences. The US believes Infosys used B-1 visas to bring over full-time workers from India, in order to avoid having to apply for the H1B work visa, which cost more and are more difficult to obtain. It is interesting to note that the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa a variant of the B-1 visa does actually allow entry of overseas workers into the US to work on client contracts typically for six months at a time.

The company denied all allegations and issued a statement on April 13 saying: "Any allegation or assertion that there is or was a corporate policy of evading the law in conjunction with the B-1 visa program is simply untrue."

Visas have become a growing source of frustration between the US and India. Currently, Infosys and other Indian IT companies send thousands of workers to the US. The Indian government recently lodged a complaint about the US with the World Trade Organisation over the increase in US visa fees. India claimed that the US H-1B and L-1 visa fees are too high and discriminate against Indian IT firms. Their complaint is directed at a 2010 US law that nearly doubled fees for H-1B and L-1 visas to $4,500 from $2,500 for firms with more than a 50 percent non-American workforce

"I think the government of India is right that this is a barrier to trade," said Vineet Nayyar, CEO of large Indian software services exporter Tech Mahindra. "I think by and large the Indian industry is taking for granted that this will continue and we're trying to see how we can manage it."

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