A federal grand jury in Texas is investigating Infosys Technologies Ltd. ("Infosys") for possible criminal violations arising out of the company's use of B-1 nonimmigrant business visas. The investigation follows a civil "whistleblower" suit filed by Jack Palmer, Jr., an Infosys employee, in which he accused the company of improperly using the B-1 visa classification to send employees to this country to work. The suit prompted an inquiry to the U.S. Department of State ("DOS") by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) about possible abuses of the B-1 program.
The allegations by Mr. Palmer are that Infosys improperly used the B-1 program to circumvent quota and salary restrictions contained in the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. Under the H-1B program, sponsored employees are allowed to work here, but there is a limit on the number of new H-1B petitions that can be granted each year, and there are requirements on the minimum salaries that H-1B employers are required to pay. B-1 business visitors, by contrast, normally are not permitted to work in this country, and there is no limitation on what they must be paid. Mr. Palmer alleges that employees sent to this country by Infosys were not legitimate business visitors but rather workers that should have been classified as H-1B employees. If these allegations are true, there may be serious criminal charges filed against Infosys and any employees involved in this activity.
The grand jury's investigation into Infosys is a wake-up call to many multinational employers that utilize the B-1 nonimmigrant classification for business visitors. Often, U.S. branches of foreign companies are not in a position to monitor the travel of business visitors sent by foreign parents or affiliates. Moreover, these foreign entities may not appreciate the limitations imposed on the activities of business visitors in the United States. This can result in unforeseen legal liability for the U.S. company, unless it carefully monitors these visitors and their activities in this country.