U.S. IT services providers heartened by Senate immigration bill

Against a backdrop of cornfields and farmhouses, this message appears on the home page of IT support services provider Caleris: "Outsource to Iowa. Not India."

The point couldn't be clearer. The company is competing from rural Iowa against offshore IT services providers in India and other locales.

Caleris co-founders Sheldon Ohringer and Rick Grewell, both native Iowans, believe the U.S. Senate's long-awaited comprehensive immigration bill could benefit their business.

The bill, written by the so-called Gang of Eight Democratic and Republican senators, seeks restrictions on the use of workers holding H-1B and L-1 visas and would likely increase costs for offshore IT service providers.

Ohringer said he isn't well versed in the specifics of the legislation, but he understands its intent. "If the costs go up to do it in India or offshore, that is a positive for us," he said.

The bill could create challenges for offshore outsourcers by eventually limiting H-1B and L-1 workers to 50% of an employer's workforce and by saddling companies with fees of as much as $10,000 for every visa holder they employ beyond that limit. Foreigners holding temporary visas make up for more than half of the U.S.-based workforces of many IT service providers that are headquartered overseas.

The bill also requires employers to pay higher wages to foreign workers with H-1B visas. How much higher isn't clear.

Ohringer said he hasn't lobbied elected officials to crack down on offshore outsourcers on behalf of Caleris, which was founded nine years ago with 25 workers and now employs 400 people in four facilities.

Brian Keane, CEO of IT services company Ameritas Technologies, agreed that the Senate bill would benefit domestic IT services providers. The bill would help the United States maintain its technological self-sufficiency, said Keane, former CEO of a $1 billion IT services company that bore his name.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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