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Cognizant, HCL under US embassy scanner

Posted on June 17, 2011
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A view of HCL at Navalur in Chennai.

‘Irregularities’ in visa applications

Cognizant Technology Solutions and HCL Technologies were under the scanner of the US Embassy last year for visa application-related irregularities, sources said.

The irregularities were detected in application made as part of the business executive programme (BEP) that is designed to speed up business-related visa applications and interviews for companies that have a requirement of sending large numbers of employees to the US.

A communication between Senator Grassley and the US Department of Labour stated that five large employers’ (in India) were suspended from the business executive programme due to ‘fraud discovered in visa applications filed by purported employees’.

Sources point out that Cognizant and HCl Tech were among the five companies suspended from the programme last year. More details could not be sought from Cognizant and HCL Tech as they refused to comment on the issue.

TCS, IBM REINSTATED

While TCS and IBM were reinstated after being suspended last year, sources point out that Cognizant and HCL Tech are yet to be re-instated.

The Minister counsellor for consular affairs, Mr James Herman, was recently quoted saying in the Indian media that there has been a rise in the number of cases in which Indian and American companies with offices in India have been trying to circumvent H-1B visa restrictions by sending people from India to the US on Blanket L visas for work that doesn’t qualify under the Blanket L visa category.

A US consular official in Mumbai said that there are roughly 350 Indian companies that participate in the BEP programme and that ‘suspensions are very rare’. The BEP covers all three types of work visas, namely H1B, B1 and L1, she added. It may be noted that employees of companies suspended from the BEP can still apply for US visas but through the regular visa appointment system.

CLOSE SCRUTINY

However, applications from individuals claiming to work for companies who were under the scanner now receive particularly close scrutiny, the US Labour Department said in its communication.

While both the H1-B and L1 visas belong to the non-immigrant category, the H1-B visa is more lucrative as it is valid for a duration of three years. L-1 visas are for a much shorter duration and are used by employees who are transferred to the US offices of a company.

It may be recalled that Infosys recently received a subpoena from a lower court in the US asking it to provide sponsorship details of B1 visas. This was after a US-based employee of Infosys alleged the Bangalore-based information technology services provider was misusing the visa programme to bring Indian employees to the US to work at clients’ site.

The plaintiff described ways that Infosys, one of the top-10 H1B petitioning companies, had worked to “creatively” get around the H·I B visa programme in order to bring in ‘low-skilled and low-wage workers’.

15 June 2011

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/info-tech/article2101846.ece

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