On October 30, 2013, Infosys, the Indian multinational provider of business consulting, information technology, software engineering and outsourcing services, agreed to pay $34 million in fines for I-9 violations. What makes this remarkable is the detailed 13-page settlement agreement that lays out in excruciating detail the company’s long use of B-1 visa holders to supplement their work force.
The federal investigation was instigated by private civil lawsuit, which had been filed by a former manager who was alleging discrimination and breach of contract. That manager, Jay Palmer, alleged that he was retaliated against when he questioned the firm’s potential violations of U.S. immigration laws.
Infosys was using engineers who were B-1 visa holders to enter the U.S. and write code and do other “work” that the DHS held was not allowed under that visa class. Evidence included detailed statements and internal Infosys documents that coached those engineers on what to say when entering the U.S. Infosys, has not admitted to any wrong doing and settled only to avoid protracted litigation.
This raises the question that if the evidence of those violations was so strong, why was the settlement only for I-9 violations? That answer lies in the complex nature of immigration law. Consider this statement in the Wall Street Journal by the lead government prosecutor, Shamoil Shipchandler:
“It’s not 100% clear what someone who holds a B-1 visa can actually do,” he said. For example, placing someone within a company for six months to do in-house tech support is an improper use of a B-1 visa. But if a consultant helps refine software during a meeting with a client, as part of a larger project, that could be seen as an appropriate use of a visitor visa, Mr. Shipchandler said. “It’s a murky area, but for our purposes they misled consular officials.”1
Thus, it becomes clear that what the government was actually concerned about was the “coaching” of employees when they applied for visas or entered the U.S. on their B-1 visas. This will likely translate into those businesses, especially in the IT industry, facing greater scrutiny when applying for business-based visas.
The Wal-Mart settlement over sub-contracted labor changed the way in which businesses track the I-9’s of their subcontractors.2 Following the Infosys settlement, the future of business immigration may again be influenced; causing business to re-evaluate the processes by which apply for and document foreign workers.
Savvy business owners are using the Infosys settlement as an opportunity to review their practices and invest in preventative measures. By seeking out affirmative review of their business immigration practices, including I-9 compliance and proper creation and maintenance of H-1B, H1B1 and E-2 status Public Access Files, businesses are hoping to avoid the same fate, or worse, as Infosys. Review of current practices is particularly important in the current political climate, which seems to suggest a stronger shift to employer sanctions and compliance as part of any comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Sharma-Crawford Attorneys at Law is a Kansas City, Missouri, firm deeply experienced in the complexities of immigration litigation. Whether you are facing criminal or civil litigation in state, federal or immigration court, in Kansas or Missouri – the caring professionals at Sharma-Crawford can help you navigate through the complex legal system. Sharma-Crawford now also offers a full range of business related immigration services. For more information, please call (816) 994-2300 or visit www.Sharma-Crawford.com. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The information contained in this article is general information and should not be considered legal counsel.