Indian Firms Asked to Explain How They Use H-1B Visas


Many opponents of H-1B visas contend that Indian outsourcing firms like Wipro and Infosys are hogging a disproportionately large number of the visas and using them to obtain training in American-style business skills for their employees, who then return to India.


If this is true, a day of reckoning may be coming soon.


According to BusinessWeek, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) have notified nine foreign firms, asking for information on how they use H-1Bs. The senators have already uncovered some pretty interesting information -- namely, that the nine companies in question account for 30 percent of the annual allotment of the visas.


Commenting earlier this year, a Wipro executive said his firm uses the visas to enhance the competitiveness of its U.S. clients. Some 2,500 of Wipro's 4,000 U.S. employees are working with an H-1B. Every year, Wipro sends 1,000 temporary workers home to India and replaces them with another 1,000 workers.


Among the additional data sought by the two senators: whether H-1B workers are paid less than their American counterparts; whether the visas are used to obtain training for jobs that are then moved to another country; and whether American workers are laid off and replaced with H-1B workers.


On the salary issue, at least, information from a General Accountability Office report suggests that a significant number of H-1B visa holders are paid less than American employees.


It will be interesting to see whether the senators get answers to these questions. They go right to the heart of the H-1B visa issue and should prove far more useful than the inflamed rhetoric from both opponents and proponents.


Grassley and Durbin are sponsors of a bill introduced last month that would impose a number of regulations on firms seeking H-1B visas, including that they make a good faith effort to hire American workers before seeking H-1B visa holders to fill positions.