Visa row engulfs Indian outsourcers

May 01 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

Indian IT firms have been accused of misusing the U.S. H-1B visa system, the special visa category that is intended to enable the "best and brightest" foreign citizens to come to the United States as non-immigrant workers in certain specific industries.

As The Times of India explains, the argument is basically this: Indian IT firms send engineers to client sites in the United States for a limited amount of time. One side of the argument claims that these visa holders are coming to the United States at a lower wage –thereby earning the IT firm a higher overhead – and learning the necessary on-site skills that they then take back to India and use with other clients and companies. As such, American client sites as a training ground.

Obviously, Indian IT managers strongly disagree with this, arguing that they make American companies competitive.

I'm not sure I understand how these visas are being misused; after all, they are non-immigrant status which means that the visa holder isn't entitled to the benefits enjoyed by a green card holder – notably permanent residence.

So it sounds like these workers may be doing exactly what is expected of them – get in, do the job, and then get the hell out. Where there is misuse, however, it looks as if it is because the visa holders themselves are making substantially less than they're being billed out to clients.

The real issue here may be Indian IT firms overstating their value; who foots the bills for travel, lodging and visas for these skilled workers to come to client sites? It's not Wipro Technologies - the client gets that bill!

And one more thing – Indian IT firms are just giving the people what they want. After all, it's not them who continually ask Congress to make more of these visas available. If the aforementioned concerns are valid - and they may well be - offshore firms in India are probably smiling broadly, since this topic isn't likely to be debated in earnest on the other side of the ocean any time soon.