Infosys Limited, an Indian company involved in consulting, technology and outsourcing, has agreed to a record $34 million civil settlement based on allegations of systemic visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes, and also agreed to enhanced corporate compliance measures. The $34 million payment made by Infosys as a result of these allegations represents
the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.
Infosys is located in 30 countries and in 17 U.S. cities, including a location in Plano, Texas. The Plano location is responsible for handling the immigration practices and procedures for U.S. operations of Infosys. Infosys brings foreign nationals into the United States to perform work and fulfill contracts with its customers under two visa classification programs relevant to this matter, H- 1B and B-1.
The H-1B visa is a strictly regulated visa program that protects the American worker from unfair competition from overseas countries that have drastically lower labor wages. The H-1B visa allows employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals needed for certain specialty occupations. The H1-B visa also protects foreign workers and mandates that they must be paid fair wages while working in the United States. H-1B visas are limited by congress to 65,000 visas nationally per year.
However, there is no limit to B-1 visitors. And the B-1 visa program only allows foreign nationals to temporarily enter the United States, for conferences, seminars, and other limited business endeavors. B-1 visa holders are not authorized to work in the United States. Infosys unlawfully and fraudulently used B-1 visa visitors as though they were H-1B workers in violation of U.S. immigration law.
According to court documents, the government alleged instances of Infosys circumventing the requirements, limitations, and governmental oversight of the H-1B visa program by knowingly and unlawfully using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labor to fill positions in the United States for employment that would otherwise be performed by U.S. citizens or by legitimate H-1B visa holders. The government also alleges that Infosys violated U.S. immigration laws to increase its profits, minimize costs of securing visas, increase flexibility of employee movement, obtain an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoid tax liabilities. The following are the more specific allegations:
– Infosys fraudulently used B-1 visa holders to perform jobs that involved skilled labor that were instead required to be performed by U.S. citizens or legitimate H-1B visa holders.
-Infosys submitted “invitation letters” to U.S. Consular Officials that contained false statements
regarding the true purpose of a B-1 visa holder’s travel to deceive the U.S. Consular Officials and secure entry of the visa holder into the United States. These letters often falsely stated that the purpose of travel was for “meetings” or “discussions,” when the true purpose was to engage in activities not authorized under a B-1 visa.
– Infosys directed B-1 visa holders to deceive U.S. Consular Officials, including providing specific instructions to avoid certain terminology, to secure entry of the visa holder into the United States.
– Infosys created a “Do’s and Don’ts” memorandum that it provided to foreign nationals entering the United States on a B-1 visa that included the following directions: “Do not mention activities like implementation, design & testing, consulting, etc., which sound like work”; “Also do not use words like, work, activity, etc., in the invitation letter”; and “Please do not mention anything about contract rates.”
– Infosys told its foreign nationals to inform U.S. Consular Officials that their destination in the United States was the same as that provided in the Labor Condition Application, notwithstanding the fact that Infosys knew that the destinations had changed.
– Infosys wrote and revised contracts with clients to conceal the fact that Infosys was providing B-1 visa holders to perform jobs that involved skilled or unskilled labor that were otherwise required to be performed by U.S. citizens or required legitimate H-1B visa holders.
– Infosys concealed the fact that B-1 visa holders were performing jobs that involved skilled or
unskilled labor that were otherwise required to be performed by U.S. citizens or legitimate H-1B
visa holders. Infosys billed clients for the use of off-shore resources when, in fact, work was being performed by B-1 visa holders in the United States.
– Infosys failed to maintain I-9 records for many of its foreign nationals in the United States in 2010 and 2011 as required by law, including a widespread failure to update and re-verify the employment authorization status of a large percentage of its foreign national employees.
It is clear from the allegations made by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security that these actions are focused on fraud prevention and maintaining compliance with all work authorization. “We will not tolerate actions that mislead the United States and circumvent lawful immigration processes, whether undertaken by a single individual or one of the largest corporations in the world,” said U.S. Attorney Bales. “The H-1B and B-1 visa programs are designed and intended to protect the American worker; and we will vigorously enforce the requirements of those programs.”
While the settlement between the U.S. government and Infosys does not cripple the company’s ability to continue to do business in the U.S., it is a warning to all businesses out there that immigration fraud does carry significant penalties and will be investigated if they come to light. For our business clients, this is a reminder that complying with immigration regulations for your foreign workers is important and if there are any compliance issues, then checking with an attorney who knows I-9 compliance and other immigration compliance matters to make sure your business meets those requirements.