The US has complained that Indian blue chip IT firms Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Cognizant unfairly get the major chunk of H-1B visas by putting extra tickets into the lottery system, which the Trump administration wants to replace with a 'merit-based' immigration policy.
A Trump administration official said at a White House briefing last week that a small number of giant outsourcing firms flood the system with applications, which increases their chances of success in the lottery draw.
"You may know their names well, but like the top recipients of the H-1B visa are companies like Tata, Infosys, Cognizant—they will apply for a very large number of visas, more than they get, by putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will, and then they'll get the lion's share of visas," the senior official said, according to a transcript of the briefing posted on the White House website.
Asked why Indian companies were singled out for mention, he responded that TCS, Infosys and Cognizant were the top three recipients of H-1B visas.
"And those three... have an average wage for H-1B visas between $60,000 and $65,000 (a year). By contrast, the median Silicon Valley software engineer's wage is probably around $150,000," the official said.
Infosys said, "We have provided a statement on the H-1B matter earlier. At this point we have nothing additional to add."
Infosys's earlier statement on H-1B was: "We are deeply committed to helping US clients leverage technology to transform their businesses, empower their employees in new ways, and become even more competitive. To do this, we continue to invest in the local communities in which we operate, including hiring local American top talent, bringing education and training to our clients to shrink the skills gap in the US, and working with policy-makers to foster innovation within states and across the country. It's our endeavour to help clients leverage the best US talent together with the best global talent, to drive economic growth in the US, ensure the US continues to be at the forefront of innovation, and bring skills and education in the new technologies that will transform our world."
The US official said H-1B visas were awarded through random lottery with about 80% of H-1B workers being paid less than the median wage in their fields.
"Only about 5% to 6%, depending on the year, of H-1B workers command the highest wage tier recognised by the department of labour, there being four wage tiers. And the highest wage tier, for instance, in 2015, was only 5% of H1B workers," he said.
He said workers are often brought in well below market rates to replace American workers, again, sort of violating the principle of the programme, which is supposed to be a means for bringing in skilled labour.
"Instead, you're bringing in a lot of times workers who are actually less skilled and lower paid than the workers that they're replacing," he said.