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

Patrick Thibodeau | March 28, 2012
India's IT firms have been lobbying U.S. officials to improve access to work visas by telling them, in part, that they are hiring more American workers.

India's IT firms have been lobbying U.S. officials to improve access to work visas by telling them, in part, that they are hiring more American workers.

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

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

India's largest IT trade group, citing figures from a study it commissioned, says it 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.-based workers. The rest, 72,000, are either on H-1B or L-1 work visas, according to The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), India's largest trade group.

Those numbers are direct jobs. Another figure cited by the Indian trade group involves total jobs created, direct and indirect: 280,000.

India's IT firms are increasing their U.S. employment because the types of services these firms deliver are changing, said industry representatives and U.S. analysts.

MindTree Limited is an example. It employs about 11,000 employees worldwide, including about 850 employees in the U.S., and plans to increase its local hiring. Most of its U.S. workers aren't on visas, said Scott Staples, the president of the Americas division for the firm, which is based in Warren, N.J. and Bangalore, India.

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

He said the expanded U.S. presence is needed 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 outsourcing firms are gigantic, including Infosys, which employs 145,000; Wipro, with 137,000 workers; and Tata Consultancy Services, which employs 227,000.

Stephanie Moore, an analyst at Forrester, agreed that Indian firms have to increase their presence in the U.S., because of "this need for contextual knowledge," or the ability to understand how the work fits into the business.

But Nasscom's answer -- bringing in more workers to the U.S. "to ease the visa restrictions" -- is not the right answer, said Moore. Bringing in L-1 worker who are exempt from prevailing wages "allows them to undercut U.S. citizens," she said.

 

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