Infosys, a giant outsourcing company with thousands of employees in the U.S. is facing an expanding federal investigation prompted by claims from an American whistle-blower that it misused short-term visitors' visas to bring in low-cost workers from India.
Accusations that Infosys repeatedly violated the terms of B-1 visas were first raised in a lawsuit filed in February in Alabama by Jack Palmer, an Infosys project manager. Aside from Palmer, at least two other Infosys managers have submitted internal whistle-blower reports pointing to Indians on business visitor visas who were performing longer-term work not authorized under those visas, according to internal documents and current Infosys managers.
In May, Infosys acknowledged that it had received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in Texas seeking information about the company's use of B-1 visas. This month, N.R. Narayana Murthy, an Infosys founder, expressed his concern about that investigation at a board meeting in Bangalore, India, in his final address before he retired as company chairman.
The events began with Palmer, 43, a project manager from Alabama who was hired by the company in 2008. In a sworn affidavit he submitted to the federal court, Palmer said his differences with Infosys management began after he was summoned to a meeting in Bangalore in March 2010. Top executives, he said, discussed ways to "creatively" get around H-1B visa limitations "to fulfill the high demand for its customers at lower cost."
In general, B-1 visas are granted to business visitors coming to the U.S. for short stays to attend meetings, conferences or training sessions, or to install specialized equipment. Visitors may not be employed for contract work like H-1B workers, nor can they be paid salaries in this country. There is no annual limit on business visitor visas, whereas H-1B visas are restricted to 85,000 a year.
Palmer said his supervisors asked him to write letters inviting workers to come from India for sales and training meetings, letters he believed were false. "I refused to write the letters," he said.
After word got out of his refusal, Palmer said, he was chastised by his managers and began to receive threats by email and telephone.