Offshore firms took 50 percent of H-1B visas in 2013

Patrick Thibodeau, Sharon Machlis

The IT offshore industry is worried about the prospects of immigration reforms that may restrict access to H-1B visas. These firms have been saying that they are increasing their hiring of U.S. workers, permanent residents or U.S citizens.

Cognizant, in a statement, said it "is committed to attracting and retaining the top talent in the United States and around the world. We create and support thousands of American jobs, including 7,000 U.S. workers hired locally over the past two years and a commitment to hire at least 10,000 more locally over the next three years. Cognizant has a robust campus recruitment process at U.S. colleges and universities, leveraging our proximity to STEM education hubs."

But Cognizant does not disclose data to support its U.S. hiring claims, such as the percent of its U.S. workforce on visas.

In its 2013 annual report, Cognizant said that it had approximately 171,400 employees globally; approximately 133,000 persons in the Asia Pacific region, approximately 31,500 persons in various locations throughout North America and Latin America and approximately 6,900 persons in various locations throughout Europe.

Hira points out that over the last four years, Cognizant has received about 23,000 new H-1B workers with visas valid for up to 6 years, and has a number of workers on L-1s. (L-1 visas are used by multinational firms to transfer employees between countries.) "So, most, if not nearly all, of Cognizant's employees in the US are on some guest-worker visa," said Hira.

[Prior year H-1B data for 2012 and 2011 and for 2010.]

Another major user of the H-1B visa, Infosys, ran into trouble with the government over its use of visitors visas. It agreed to pay a $34 million settlement last year to resolve a U.S. government claim that it ran an unlawful visa scheme. The company does not disclose data on its U.S. workforce, and did not reply to requests for comment.

A TCS spokesman said that the company "is among the top job creators in the U.S. within the IT services industry and has actively recruited more than 5,000 Americans over the past three years, many of whom are working on technologies and systems that support critical client needs and help to drive America's innovation economy."

But without the data from TCS, it is unknown what percentage of its U.S. workforce is on visas, and how that may have changed over the years.

Cargill, a food and agricultural company, is outsourcing IT jobs to TCS, affecting some IT 900 jobs worldwide, including 300 in Minnesota's twin cities, the Minnesota StarTribune reported last week.

In an emailed response to Computerworld, Cargill spokeswoman Gabby Nelson, said the company has been reviewing IT infrastructure services "to determine whether we should continue to do that work internally or whether we should choose a partner who could provide the global infrastructure capabilities Cargill needs today and to support our future growth."

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