It is one of India's most iconic companies, with a much-cherished reputation for probity and integrity. But in a finger-wagging denunciation, Uncle Sam says it committed "visa fraud by knowingly and unlawfully" using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labour allowed only for H-B visa holders, submitted "materially false representations" regarding the purpose of its B-1 holding employees travel to US to "deceive" US officials, and presented, or caused to be presented, to employees of the US "false and fraudulent" claims for property.
Not so, maintains the Bangalore-based Infosys, as it denies and disputes the allegations by the US. In a 13-page settlement, the company insists its use of B-1 visas was for "legitimate business purposes" and not in any way to circumvent the requirements of the H-1B program. "Infosys has long been a significant and responsible participant in the H-1B program. Infosys has never intended to, nor has it ever circumvented the requirements of the H-1B program," the company submits.
Further, it states that the controlling authority on the use of B-1 visas, including the U.S Foreign Affairs Manual, permits the use of B-1 visa holders to conduct other activities provided that they are a necessary incident to international trade or commerce.
The B-1 travel conducted by Infosys and its employees in support of projects for its US- based clients, including those specifically alleged by US authorities which involved coding and programming, was fully consistent with all applicable authority and guidance, Infosys maintains.
The company also insists its invitation letters were accurate and their level of detail was appropriate for their purpose in the B-1 visa application process; they were consistent with common practice in the industry and they were accepted by US Consular Officers.
Despite this, the company conceded on Wednesday that it committed "civil violations" and agreed to pony up $ 34 million in fines, ostensibly to escape a protracted legal battle that may have involved criminal proceedings.
Under the terms of the settlement, Uncle Sam agreed to "release Infosys and each of its current and former employees, directors, officers, agents, and contractors from any civil, administrative, or criminal claims," subject to a host of conditions. These include Infosys instituting strict procedures and record-keeping in future.
"This is a civil settlement that resolves all issues subject to compliance," Shamoil Shipchandler, deputy criminal chief of the US attorney's office of East Texas, which handled the case, told ToI. Under the terms of the settlement, Infosys will pay $ 5 million each to the state department and the department of homeland security and $24 million to the United States attorney's office of East Texas within ten days. The case was handled by the attorney's office in East Texas because Infosys' main office that handled its HR in US is based in Plano, outside Dallas.
Relief at the settlement was palpable in an Infosys statement that said there were no criminal charges or court rulings pending against the Company, and furthermore, there are no limitations on the Company's eligibility for federal contracts or access to US visa programmes as a result of the settlement.
"As reflected in the settlement, Infosys denies and disputes any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage, or immigration abuse. Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven," the company said, explaining "This settlement removes the uncertainty of prolonged litigation and allows us to continue to focus on delivering measurable results for our clients."