The two US senators who have been raising questions about H-1B visa use by offshore outsourcing vendors charged Tuesday that offshoring firms are also "abusing the system" through the use of another category of visas.
Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley released a list of the top users of “L visas” as well as a companion list that they said points to a connection between use of those visas and the H-1B visas used by offshoring companies.
The L visas can be used by multinational companies to transfer employees from overseas locations to offices in the U.S. They don't have some of the restrictions that H-1B visas do, such as a requirement that workers be paid wages that are on par with the prevailing salaries of American workers.
As the demand for H-1B visas increases, use of L visas has been growing as well, according to data that was produced by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the request of Durbin and Grassley.
In the federal government's 2006 fiscal year, which ended last September, applications for more than 53,000 L visas were approved. That was up from about 49,400 in fiscal 2005 and about 47,700 the year before that.
And like the H-1B, the L visas are being heavily used by outsourcing vendors that transfer application development, help desk services and other IT work to offshore locations, according to the list posted online by Durbin and Grassley.
Topping the list of L users for fiscal 2006 was India-based Tata Consultancy Services, which received 4,887 of the visas. Tata, which also was awarded 3,046 H-1B visas last year, had been given 5,517 L visas in fiscal 2005, Durbin and Grassley said.
The two senators said that Cognizant Technology Solutions, which has offshore facilities in India, received 2,226 H-1B visas and 3,520 L visas during 2006 financial year. The latter figure was up from 1,888 visas the year before.
India-based Wipro received 4,002 H-1B visas and 839 L visas last year, Durbin and Grassley said. Infosys Technologies, the No. 1 user of H-1B visas in fiscal 2006 with 4,908, needed relatively few L visas by comparison: just 294 last year.
"The L visa is designed to give multinational companies the freedom to transfer managers and specialists within the company to their US offices," Durbin said. "But some of these companies have hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of L visa workers. I find it hard to believe that any one company has that many individuals that are legitimately being transferred within a single year.
"It's clear that foreign outsourcing firms are abusing the system, and we can't let that continue," Durbin said.