Washington: In one of the largest immigration fines ever, India's second largest software exporter Infosys on Wednesday said it has agreed to pay USD 34 million to settle its visa row with the US but denied visa fraud.
Infosys allegedly sent employees to the US with B-1 visitor visas and not on H1-Bs permits designed for high-tech workers.
Completing a civil settlement, which removes a long-standing cloud over the company's visa issue in a geography which accounts for a major chunk of its revenues, Infosys agreed to pay USD 34 million to resolve all the allegations.
"The settlement is focused on historical I-9 paperwork errors from 2010-2011 that Infosys began correcting before the investigation began. There is no evidence that the I-9 paperwork violations allowed any Infosys employee to work beyond their visa authorisation," Infosys said in a statement.
The settlement concludes the investigation by US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas. It resolves all issues with the US Department of State, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) relating to I-9 paperwork errors and visa matters that were the subject of the investigation.
"There were no criminal charges or court rulings against the company. Furthermore, there are no limitations on the company's eligibility for federal contracts or access to US visa programs as a result of the settlement," Infosys said.
Sources said the government's probe started in 2011. The Eastern District of Texas Federal Court allowed a grand jury investigation into visa (B-1) abuse allegations while at the same time the DHS started looking into I-9 paperwork errors and record-keeping, it added.
Form I-9 is used to verify the identity and employment authorisation of individuals hired for employment in the US.
The case filed by Jay Palmer in 2011 had influenced the investigations into visa misuse and I-9 paperwork errors by the US government, the sources said.
In August 2012, a US court had dismissed a whistle-blower harassment case against outsourcing giant where Infosys consultant Palmer claimed that he was harassed after drawing attention to systemic US visa fraud at Infosys.
"Today's settlement is largely about I-9 issues. The US agencies have accepted Infosys' rebuttal on visa misuse allegations," the sources said.
Infosys denied and disputed any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage.
"Those claims are untrue and are assertions that remain unproven. The company's use of B-1 visas was for legitimate business purposes and not in any way intended to circumvent the requirements of the H-1B program. Only 0.02 percent of the days that Infosys employees worked on US projects in 2012 were performed by B-1 visa holders," Infosys said.
Infosys said company policies demand adherence to all laws, rules and regulations everywhere the firm operates, and it takes compliance obligations seriously.
In the settlement agreement, the US government acknowledged that Infosys demonstrates a commitment to compliance with the immigration laws through its current visa and I-9 practices, the company said in its statement.
Yesterday, in a media advisory, the Office of US Attorney John M Bales for the Eastern District of Texas said DHS and the State Department would on Wednesday "announce the settlement of systemic visa fraud and immigration abuse allegations with an international corporation."