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Immigration Law

The Ambiguous B-1 Visa: Lessons Learned from the Infosys Settlement

"There are plenty of lessons one can take away from the Settlement Agreement upon an objective review. Despite the seriousness of the allegations, Infosys did not incur any criminal liability. For instance, the government accused, among other things, the IT giant for bringing its employees on B-1 business visas to the United States to actually perform work. The government further accused Infosys of generating invitation letters to US consular officials indicating that their purpose of travel was for “meetings” and “discussion” when the true purpose was to work in the US, which can only be performed under the more onerous H-1B visa, such as coding and programming. Infosys, on the other hand, countered that it has always used the B-1 visa for legitimate purposes and not to circumvent the H-1B visa. Infosys also stated that the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual permits other activities under the B-1 visa provided that they are incident to international trade or commerce, including those alleged by the US to be improper, such as coding and programming. The government also accused Infosys of directing its employees to misrepresent that they would be performing work at the location stated on the Labor Condition Application (LCA) underlying the H-1B visa petition, when they would actually be going to work at another location. Infosys also denied this accusation. Infosys, however, admitted to violations concerning its obligations to verify employees on form I-9. Still, despite the denial of any fraud or malfeasance, Infosys paid a humongous fine of $34 million.   It was indeed the ambiguity in the B-1 rules that snared Infosys and it was the same ambiguity in the B-1, which ultimately saved it from criminal liability. This is evident in the statement of the lead prosecutor in the case, Shamoil Shipchandler, who is quoted in a Wall Street Journal article: “It’s not 100% clear what someone who holds a B-1 visa can actually do,” he said." - Cyrus D. Mehta, Nov. 1, 2013.