One of the largest immigration related penalties against a single company was recently reported. 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.
This settlement was announced by U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Eastern District of Texas. This case was investigated by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and by attorneys from ICE’s Office of Principal Legal Advisor.
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 the like. B-1 visa holders are not allowed 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. Following are the specific allegations:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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, wo