IT offshore outsourcers are top L-1 visa users, U.S. says

IEEE-USA says government report shows that L-1 visa is tool for offshoring jobs

The IEEE-USA is calling for reform of the L-1 visa program following release of a government report that identified IT offshore outsourcers as its major users.

In the recently released report, the Dept. of Homeland Security's Inspector General (IG) called some of L-1 visa program's rules vague and in need of improvement. With no changes, the program is at risk for fraud and abuse, the IG's report said.

The report offers a series of recommendations for tightening the program to prevent problems.

The largest users of the L-1 visa are companies either based in India or with operations there, according to the report, compiled at the request of the U.S. Senate's leading H-1B critic, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The L-1 visas are used by many of the same firms that use H-1B visas.

The inspector general's report doesn't offer any smoking guns of abuse, but found that after reviewing a sampling of petitions, the program needs better controls and "more rigorous" consideration of visa applications "to reduce fraud and abuse."

The largest users of the L-1 visa program are outsourcers like Tata Consultancy Services and Cognizant. From 2002 to 2011, Tata and Cognizant received 26,000 and nearly 20,000 petitions, respectively, making them the top users by far. The third largest user was IBM India operations, which received 5,722 L-1 petitions.

The IEEE-USA, a professional organizations for engineers, said use of the L-1 program by offshore firms is telling. "Outsourcers have come to dominate the L-1 visa program in exactly the same way that they dominate the H-1B," said Marc Apter, President of the IEEE-USA, in a statement.

"The IG report documents the increasing concerns that we have been hearing from our members that this sensible program for international managers and specialists has become a tool for shipping American jobs overseas," said Apter.

The IEEE says it wants legislative reforms.

The L-1 visa allows multinational firms to transfer employees. Unlike the H-1B visa, there is no cap or prevailing wage requirement with the L-1 visa.

The L-1 visa is used by multinational firms to transfer employees to the U.S. Critics have long argued that the visa is ripe for abuse and can serve as a substitute for the H-1B visa.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service said it agrees with the recommendations, and is working on new guidance to give visa adjudicators a better idea of what visas they can and cannot approve.

Top 10 L-1 visa employers image
The top 10 L-1 visa employers.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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