Infosys agrees to pay record $34 mn to settle US visa row

IT major Infosys today agreed to pay to the US government a whopping sum of USD 34 million to settle charges of, what federal authorities said, massive violation of the country's immigration laws to maximise profits.

In the settlement, which resulted in the largest ever payment to a company over violation of immigration laws, the federal prosecutors, in the court papers, alleged instances of Infosys circumventing the requirements, limitations, and governmental oversight of the H-1B visa programme by knowingly and unlawfully using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labour. This was done, they allege, in order to fill positions in the US for employment that would otherwise be performed by American citizens or require legitimate H-1B visa holders.

The government alleged that Infosys did so in order to increase profits, minimize costs of securing visas, increase flexibility of employee movement, obtain an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoid tax liabilities.

"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," US Attorney John M Bales after the settlement with Infosys was formally announced.

"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," Bales said.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Infosys used B-1 visa holders to perform jobs that involved skilled labor that were instead required to be performed by United States citizens or required legitimate H-1B visa holders.

Infosys submitted "invitation letters" to US Consular Officials that contained false statements regarding the true purpose of a B-1 visa holder's travel in order to deceive US consular officials and secure entry of the visa holder into the United States, the court documents alleged.

However, Infosys in a statement denied and disputed any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage, or immigration abuse.

"Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven. The company's use of B-1 visas was for legitimate business purposes and not in any way intended to circumvent the requirements of the H-1B program," the company said.

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