FRAMINGHAM 11 FEBRUARY 2011 - WASHINGTON -- Offshore IT service providers continue to rank among the largest employers of H-1B visa workers, according to U.S. data.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service count of companies applying for new H-1B visas, excluding renewals, shows India-based firm Infosys Technologies Ltd., as receiving nearly 3,800 visas last year. The company has consistently ranked at or near the top of this annual listing. (See chart, below).
The No. 2 company, Cognizant Technology Solutions, from Teaneck, NJ, has a large offshore workforce. Microsoft, which is in the No. 3 spot, seeks permanent residency for many of its workers.
Infosys, in a filing late last month to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said that as of the end of last year the majority of its technology professionals in the U.S. held H-1B visas, about 9,300 people.
Infosys said the number of workers on L-1 visas, which are used by multinational firms to transfer employees, was approximately 2,300.
The heavy use of the H-1B visa by offshore providers is one reason why this is a toxic subject with IT workers. But there are increasing signs in Congress of a new push to reform the H-1B visa and employment-based Green Cards.
Legislation is being prepared by U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would make it easier to get permanent residency or Green Cards for advance degree graduates. Lofgren, who represents Silicon Valley, has not introduced her proposal, but she is a veteran of immigration issues.
Previous efforts by Lofgren have attempted to make it easier for foreign students who earn advance degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM degrees, to remain in the U.S. Her latest proposal is broader.
Among the things Lofgren may seek to accomplish in this bill is to create a new Green Card category for advanced degree graduates with STEM degrees, and to enable employers to file immigrant petitions for any of these students, eliminating the need for an H-1B visa for these employers. Out of the 85,000 H-1B visas allowed each year, 20,000 are set aside for STEM graduates.
U.S. Rep Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) introduced something similar last month. But Lofgren's proposal may go further by seeking protections for U.S. workers by barring their displacement by an H-1B worker, a move that may be aimed at firms that primarily deliver offshore services.
Lofgren declined to comment.
President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address last month signaled support for reforms that would make it easier for advance degree graduates to become permanent residents.
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