Growing visa costs for Indian IT firms

Mint reports that Indian IT companies are classifying workers servicing US clients as traveling for “knowledge transfer” in order to the circumvent the increased costs of H-1B and L-1 visas:

A report published on Monday by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets showed that a firm’s ability to send workers to the US on visas directly affects its profitability. The report estimates that if a firm sends an Indian employee, its profit margin is 39.1%, while if it hires a local, it is 25.3% (considering that the utilization level is at 75%)…

[T]he US immigration framework lacks a visa category to allow firms to send workers to do “gainful” work on urgent, short-term assignments, according to Poorvi Chothani, founder of Mumbai-based corporate immigration law firm LawQuest.

“When visa caps have been met and companies need to send someone urgently, the inability to immediately engage them in the US is a huge impediment,” she said. According to her, in such cases “some companies may have made an ill-advised choice to send workers on business visas”.

Herman added that one of the top consular office’s concerns was a rise in the misuse of business visas, and “making sure we communicate adequately with businesses to make sure they know what they are allowed to do”. He claims that one of the reason most cited by employees of IT firms travelling to the US is “knowledge transfer” (which is permitted under the B1/B2 visas). “We refuse more of those types of cases these days because most of the time they cannot explain to us what that means,” he said. “So, that’s a very common issue—of going for knowledge transfer, when really what they’re doing is going to work on a project.”