Infosys Fined an Unprecedented $35,000,000.00 by the U.S. Government for Employing B-1 Visas in Lieu of H-1Bs

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Government will fine Infosys, an Indian Technology/Consulting giant, almost $35,000,000.00 for employing B-1 visa workers in lieu of H-1B visa workers.

By way of background, last year, Judge Thompson of the Federal Court for the Middle District of Alabama rejected all claims brought by Jack Palmer against his employer, Infosys. Palmer claimed to have been harassed and retaliated against after making allegations that Infosys’ massive B-1 visa program was used fraudulently in place of more appropriate visas. Palmer’s rejected claims were subsequently resurrected by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, which continued its investigation into whether Infosys wrongly filed B-1 visas for workers performing work that actually required H-1B visas.

In a 2011 blog post I wrote about how Infosys may have been engaging in a perfectly legal action; per 9 FAM 41.31 N11, “ALIENS NORMALLY CLASSIFIABLE H-1 OR H-3″:

“There are cases in which aliens who qualify for H-1 or H-3 visas may more appropriately be classified as B-1 visa applicants in certain circumstances; e.g., a qualified H-1 or H-3 visa applicant coming to the United States to perform H-1 services or to participate in a training program. In such a case, the applicant must not receive any salary or other remuneration from a U.S. source other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement for expenses incidental to the alien’s temporary stay. For purposes of this Note, it is essential that the remuneration or source of income for services performed in the United States continue to be provided by the business entity located abroad, and that the alien meets the following criteria:

(1) With regard to foreign-sourced remuneration for services performed by aliens admitted under the provisions of INA 101(a)(15)(B), the Department has maintained that where a U.S. business enterprise or entity has a separate business enterprise abroad, the salary paid by such foreign entity shall not be considered as coming from a “U.S. source;”

(2) In order for an employer to be considered a “foreign firm” the entity must have an office abroad and its payroll must be disbursed abroad. To qualify for a B-1 visa, the employee must customarily  be employed by the foreign firm, the employing entity must pay the employee’s salary, and the source of the employee’s salary must be 
abroad…”

However, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), apparently motivated by Palmer’s Testimony, addressed a strongly worded but poorly researched memo to Secretary Hillary Clinton in which he demanded a complete review of the B-1 visa. His request was inexplicably granted, and the resultant changes substantially injured the economic interests of U.S. organizations engaged in international trade, countermanded congressional intent on the subject, and escalated denials for B-1 applicants at U.S. Consulates, especially those in the ‘B-1 in lieu of H-1B’ category.

Moving back to present: Infosys’ fine is unprecedented in the history of Immigration law.  It will have a major impact on both our nation’s technology/consulting sector and on our Immigration policy. In light of the fact that other nations are eagerly recruiting the world’s best and brightest (sometimes from within our borders), it can only be hoped that the Infosys fine will reinvigorate the push for the creation of a new U.S. visa category specifically designed for short term consulting projects, and/or to increase the U.S.’s yearly quota for H-1B professional workers to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.

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