The U.S. embassy in New Delhi temporarily suspended IBM Global Services from a program that expedites applications for temporary work visas because some of its applications were fraudulent, an Indian media outlet has reported.
Reporters at livemint.com in New Delhi, a media partner of The Wall Street Journal, broke the story earlier this month. According to the report, four Indian companies and one U.S. company had been suspended, but the embassy declined to identify them. The report cited three "senior industry executives" who spoke on condition of anonymity and confirmed that the U.S. company was IBM Global Services, which was reportedly suspended and subsequently reinstated. The report said IBM Global Services refused to comment. Here's an excerpt that explains the issue:
According to minister counsellor for consular affairs James Herman, consular officials "detected they were committing fraud in some of their applications". Of the five companies, three have been reinstated, while two remain suspended. Herman refused to divulge names of any of the firms. "It's not releasable," he said. Mint could not confirm the names of the other firms. The officials said they were much smaller companies. Herman said this is the first time that he was aware of any participating company being suspended since the Business Executive Program (BEP) was launched in the 1990s. The US embassy couldn't conclusively confirm whether it had ever happened before. The programme-which expedites business-related visa applications and interviews for certain companies that send large numbers of employees to the US for business purposes-is only available to "major well-established companies" with offices in India that have "demonstrated a need for a significant number of visas per year", according to the BEP website.
The report referred to growing attempts in India to use "Blanket L" visas as a means of getting around tightened restrictions under the H-1B visa program:
According to Herman, the number of cases in which Indian and American companies with offices in India "appear to be attempting 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-especially as related to the requirement on "specialized knowledge"-has been on the rise. They report similar abuses regarding business visas. Accordingly, the refusal rate for Blanket L visas issued to Indian nationals has spiked from 2-3% to 20% within the past two years, according to Herman. The refusal rate for business visas is also on the rise. The US embassy does not keep statistics on the number of turnarounds-people denied entry into the US at ports of entry due to visa discrepancies-but Herman said he believes it to be "significantly higher than before". While the refusal rate doesn't by definition indicate fraud, "it's a concern because it appears that some companies are trying to find a way to circumvent the Blanket L guidelines".