India's IT firms hire U.S. workers as they fight for visas

Nasscom says Indian IT firm employment growing in U.S.

India's IT services providers have been lobbying for better access to U.S. work visas by telling U.S. officials, in part, that they are hiring more American workers.

India's effort to gain unfettered access to work visas faces increasing obstacles. Congress recently raised the H-1B filing fees by $2,000. Moreover, U.S. immigration authorities routinely delay visas with paperwork requests, and they're denying more L-1 and H-1B visa applications than they have in the past.

Part of the effort to turn around U.S. perspectives on this issue involves promoting India as an American job creator.

India's largest IT trade group, citing figures from a study it commissioned, says the Indian IT industry employs 107,000 people in the U.S., almost twice the 56,000 it employed in 2006. Of that latest number, 35,000 are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The remaining 72,000 are holders of either H-1B or L-1 work visas, according to the New Delhi-based National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).

And those are just directly created jobs. The Indian trade group further claimed that Indian IT companies have directly and indirectly created a total of 280,000 U.S. jobs.

India's IT companies are increasing their U.S. employment because the types of services they deliver are changing, according to industry representatives and U.S. analysts.

MindTree Ltd. is an example. It employs about 11,000 people worldwide, including about 850 in the U.S., and it plans to increase its U.S. hiring. Most of MindTree's U.S. workers aren't on visas, said Scott Staples, president of the Americas division of the company, which is co-headquartered in Warren, N.J., and Bangalore, India.

MindTree said on Tuesday that it's opening a development center in Gainesville, Fla., that will hire about 400 people over the next five years. The company chose that location, in part, because of its proximity to the University of Florida and because of the strength of the local labor market, said Staples.

He said MindTree needs an expanded U.S. presence because development work is increasingly becoming domain-specific, such as promotion management. "We are doing a lot of analytics work, and you need to have folks on site," said Staples.

Many of India's IT services providers are gigantic companies. For example, Infosys employs 145,000 people, Wipro has 137,000 workers, and Tata Consultancy Services employs 227,000.

Stephanie Moore, an analyst at Forrester Research, agreed that Indian companies have to increase their presence in the U.S., because of the "need for contextual knowledge" -- the ability to understand how IT systems fit into the business.

But Nasscom's solution -- asking the U.S. "to ease the visa restrictions" so companies can bring more foreign workers into this country -- isn't the right answer, said Moore. Bringing in L-1 workers who are exempt from prevailing wages "allows [Indian employers] to undercut U.S. citizens," she said.

Moore believes Indian companies should be investing in training centers in the U.S. "The measly 35,000 [U.S.] jobs that these multibillion-dollar behemoths have built over the past 10 years are completely negated by the jobs that we have lost," said Moore.

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