Showing posts with label cognizant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cognizant. Show all posts

Friday, March 30, 2012

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India shows concerns to US over rejection of H1B, L1 visas

India has complained to the US about an increase in the rate of rejection of US visas for Indian professionals that resulted in a sharp decline in the number of visas issued to Indians last year.

Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma took up the visa issue with US commerce secretary John Bryson in a bilateral meeting on Monday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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Cognizant rewards employees with 200% variable payout

CHENNAI: After growing faster than Indian information technology (IT) industry, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp has now rewarded its employees by giving out as much as 200% of the variable components of their 2011 salaries.

Typically, anywhere from 20 to 30% of an employee salary is labeled as variable pay, linked to a combination of overall company performance and individual performance.

"The company has done the repeat of 2010 in rewarding its top performers. The top performers got around 200% of their target bonus while the average bonus given was 150%. The bonuses were on expected lines as the company has been scoring good quarter on quarter," said a Cognizant employee in Chennai on condition of anonymity.

"Yes, Cognizant has announced performance-linked bonus payout for all its associates, globally," said Shankar Srinivasan, Chief People Officer, Cognizant. "Our industry leading revenue growth in calendar 2011 has enabled us to pay performance bonuses well above target."

Cognizant's bonus comes at a time when industry lobby Nasscom has projected tepid revenue growth for software exporters. Last month, Nasscom forecasted 11-14% growth for India IT-BPO Industry during fiscal 2013, lesser than the 16.7% growth that the sector saw this in the just concluding fiscal.

Click here to read more.

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Lawmakers question sharp rise in denial of H1B, L1 visas

Voicing concern over increasing rates of denial of H-1B and L1 work visas, that are popular among Indian professionals, top US lawmakers and corporate bigwigs have questioned the Obama administration over the issue, warning this would hurt American business interests.

Officials at a Congressional hearing cited last year's figure of 26 per cent denial to H1B visa applicants, that was the highest in recent years, and also pointed out instances where the visas were denied for flimsy reasons.

Elton Gallegly, chair of the Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, said figures obtained from US Citizenship and Immigration Services show a rise in denial in certain categories of visas between the years of 2008 and 2010.

Click here to read more.

Monday, January 4, 2010

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Information technology: The wonder decade

What started as an industry riding the demand from global customers seeking to make their IT and business systems Y2K compliant is today almost a $60-billion industry, contributing nearly 4% to India’s GDP.

Source: EconomicTimes
-1999 - The biggest inflection point was the role Indian companies played in combating the so-called millennium bug. TCS, Wipro and others become trusted partners for companies worldwide seeking to achieve Y2K compliance

-Infosys achieves $100 million in revenues, lists on Nasdaq. India’s outsourcing industry grows to $4 billion 2000-2001 - Indian IT industry moves from Y2K to complex e-business projects

-Dewang Mehta, who helped Indian IT industry grow in its early years, dies. Kiran Karnik takes over as Nasscom head

-US increases H1B visa limit to 1,95,000, the highest ever

-Wipro lists on NYSE

-2002-2003 - NR Narayana Murthy steps down from Infosys and Nandan Nilekani takes over

-Post the dotcom bust, companies such as DSQ Software, Pentafour and Silverline perish

-2004-2005 - TCS lists on BSE

-Large customers start offshoring ERP-based projects. Infosys becomes a $1-billion company, Wipro too crosses $1 billion in revenues

-GE sells 60% in GECIS — the back office pioneer — to private equity firms. The Indian BPO industry starts growing rapidly

-IBM, Accenture and HP start developing their Indian offshore presence to make them their largest operations outside the US

-2006-2007 - Indian IT becomes a $31-billion industry

-Protectionism in top export markets forces Indian IT companies to start hiring locals

-2008-2009 - Infosys’ revenues cross $4 billion. Nilekani joins the government as chairman of the Unique Identity Authority of India

-HCL acquires UK’s Axon for £441.1 million, the biggest ever acquisition for Indian IT

-Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju admits to over $1-billion fraud. Tech Mahindra acquires Satyam

-TCS’ annual revenues cross $6 billion. N Chandrasekaran takes over from S Ramadorai as chief executive

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

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20,000 H1B visas still up for grabs in the US

About 20,000 H-1B visas, one of the most sought after for overseas professionals including Indians, are still up for grabs in the US which is struggling to fill up the allocated number of 65,000, even as less than a month remains before the start of the next financial year.

Primarily meant for computers and information technology professionals, the H-1B visas have been one of the most sought after for foreign professionals in previous years.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has been receiving several times the number of the allocated quota. However, this year, the USCIS is struggling to fill up the 65,000 H-1B visas as mandated by the US Congress.

This is mainly attributed to the strict approval policy adopted by the USCIS this year and the ongoing economic recession, which has resulted in a 26-year high unemployment rate of 9.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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H1B Cap : August 2009 Update

The USCIS H1B cap count, as of August 14, 2009, is 45,000. This is a slight increase over the past several counts. The advanced degree cap remains at 20,000. The USCIS continues to accept FY2010 H1B cases under the advanced degree and regular caps.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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Visa norms crush Indian job dream for expat spouses

Source: EconomicTimes
In August last year, when Miranda Green’s husband, Drew, got an offer from Shell to relocate to India on an intra-company transfer with full international terms, the Dutch couple was ecstatic. It helped that the energy company promoted dual-career couples like Miranda and Drew, both had worked for over 20 years with Shell, she in the accounts department and Drew as a materials and corrosion engineer.

The company also needed an accounts specialist with deep knowledge of Shell’s processes to lead its new business support organisation in Bangalore, and Miranda’s qualification and experience with Shell were a perfect fit for the job.

Things seemed to be going according to plan for the couple until they applied for work visas (called employment, or ‘E’ category, visas) at the Indian embassy in the Netherlands in February this year. While Drew, 46, got his, Miranda’s was refused on the grounds that as an expatriate’s (expat’s) wife she is not eligible to work in India.

“My job meant a lot to me. Drew and I were shocked and devastated. It became clear in our discussions with the embassy that any further appeals might make matters worse. After a lot of soul-searching, we decided to go ahead with Drew’s assignment and I resigned my job to accompany him (to Bangalore),” says a dejected Miranda.

For 35-year-old American Brandon de Cuir, too, the passage to India as an accompanying spouse has been a difficult one. Brandon’s wife, Christi DeCuir, a business development executive, got an India assignment on an intra-company transfer with Cisco Systems starting January 2008.

Since Brandon’s then employer, Seattle-based renewable energy firm Blue Marble Energy, did not have operations in India, it became difficult for him to obtain a visa. So he thought he would do the next best thing: try and land a job in India’s tech capital, Bangalore.

“I tried with at least four local start-ups, but the fact that as an accompanying spouse I would need to return to my home country to apply for an employment visa and the inherent bureaucracy and uncertainty in the whole process put the companies off making a job offer,” says Brandon, who is now willy-nilly a full-time homemaker and baby-sitter––the couple were blessed with a baby boy, their firstborn, last fortnight.

“This is such a pity as the Indian government says it wants to encourage the type of technologies in which I have expertise,” he added. The Greens and the de Cuirs are among the hundreds of expat couples whose India dreams begin to sour when they come into contact with an outdated visa regime that hinders dependent visa-holders, chiefly spouses, from automatically working in the country even after a valid job offer on an intra-company transfer.

Couples of Indian origin, who often opt for a career move to India, too are impacted by this law. Currently, foreign nationals coming to India on an employment visa may obtain an “X visa” meant for dependents such as spouses. If the spouse decides to take up employment in India, the person will be required to go back to the port of origin and obtain an employment visa, which could take a long time.

Refusal rates, too, are high, as in the case of Miranda Green. There are over 50,000 highly skilled expat employees in India working with Indian and overseas multinational companies, according to an estimate by the Hague-based Permits Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that lobbies governments globally for open work authorisation for expat spouses. The foundation counts 42 leading transnationals such as Shell, Ericsson, British Airways, ING, Unilever, AstraZeneca and KPMG among its corporate sponsors.

“India is a growth story; every company wants to bring its best people to India, and our members put India right on top of our priority list along with Indonesia, Malaysia, the European Union and China,” says Kathleen van der Wilk-Carlton, a member of the Board of Permits Foundation.

The foundation has recently begun a lobbying effort with the Indian government to make it easier for highly skilled spouses of expats to work in this country. It is also in talks with member companies on the issue. “They (the companies) all recognise this as a small but important issue. It starts with being a personal issue, but becomes a corporate issue (soon),” adds Ms Wilk-Carlton.

Archana Bhaskar, HR head of Shell India, says that spouses not being able to work has become a issue because of the criticality of expat skills, especially in a sector like oil and gas. “Invariably, the question from these potential expat hires is whether their spouse can work in India, and often they don’t accept India postings because this is not easy,” she said. The Shell Group employs around 100 expats among its 2,000 staff.

Globally, despite protectionism by some governments in the wake of the economic slowdown, the cross-border movement of highly skilled professionals remains critical for multinational corporations. Experts feel that India, too, needs to imbibe a range of skills that are not available locally to cross-pollinate them with the ones that exist in the country.

As far as the Indian government is concerned, it is grappling with a huge backlog of cases pertaining to various visa issues such as extensions and transfers since 2003, “and any big change on employment visas looks unlikely,” feels Mumbai-based immigration lawyer Poorvi Chothani.

A senior official in the ministry of home affairs told ET that there is no policy change in the offing for spouses of foreign nationals coming to India on employment visas. “The Indian rules are merely reflecting old patterns of expat entry when spouses were not working. It is probably an oversight, but for us it’s early days in our engagement with the government here,” observes Ms Wilk-Carlton.

Work permit-related restrictions often depend on reciprocal arrangements between two countries. “Some MNCs have been lobbying with the Indian government to allow spouses of employment visa holders to work in India. However, it often depends on reciprocal protocol in the country of origin. For instance, there are a large number of Indians in the US on H1B visas and their spouses are not allowed to work there. Besides, the mandatory payment of social security is also an issue with the H1B visa holders. Sorting out such reciprocal issues would help in easing work permit issues for spouses of expats working in India,” says Sonu Iyer, tax partner, at Ernst & Young.

Compared to some of the countries where there are a large number of Indians on work permits, India does not really fare too well in offering a level playing field for spouses of work permit holders. “Increasingly, countries view business-related transfers differently from long-term immigration and recognise the benefit of introducing country ‘attractiveness’ measures,” the Permits Foundation wrote while presenting its case to the home ministry.

Miranda says that right now they are only eight weeks into her husband’s assignment, so she is busy with the challenges of settling into a new country. “But there will come a moment when I want to think about what else I can do to keep my brain active and my employment skills up to date. If I do find another job, I understand that the regulations require me to go back to the Netherlands to start the whole employment visa process again. I don’t relish the thought of it,” remarks Miranda, who says that her husband has already halved his four-year assignment because of the country’s unsympathetic work visa regime for expat spouses.

A global survey by the Permits Foundation covering over 3,000 expat spouses in 117 countries in December last year lists lack of job opportunity for the spouse as a major mobility deterrent for senior executives.

Brandon says that he and his wife have now been in India 18 months and his desire to work in the host country has been a major factor in deciding not to stay here longer despite the fact that Cisco would have liked his wife to extend her contract.

“My wife’s next posting is likely to be in Europe where there are several countries in which I, as an accompanying spouse, am permitted to take employment or self employment without needing a separate work permit. This will make it a really attractive posting for both of us,” he said.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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H-1B Visa Companies Getting Unannounced Visits by Feds

Source: eWeek
If your company is using H-1B visa workers, you may get a surprise from the government. Piece of advice for your manager: It's voluntary, but the surprise could intimidate.

In an attempt to help root out fraud and other criminal activity, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services agency is making surprise visits to companies with H-1B visa holders on the books.
After reports came out that there has been evidence shown of fraudulent use of temporary workers, bad documentation abusing the system and many visa holders not being paid prevailing wages, the Feds are showing up without notice and looking to see that everything is on the up and up. Click here for complete story from eWeek.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

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What is H2B visa?

H-2B Work Visa General Information: The H-2B Work Visa was created to allow people to come to the United States temporarily, mainly for non-agricultural jobs, in which the U.S. workers are in short supply. Up to 66,000 H-2B Visas are issued every year. This year's annual quota has not yet been reached. Prospects are good that H-2B Visas will remain available in future years.

H-2B Work Visa Eligibility Requirements: You qualify for an H-2B Work Visa if you are coming to the United States to accept a temporary or seasonal non-agricultural job from a U.S. employer. You may apply if you have the correct background, skills or natural abilities needed by the employer.

H-2B Visas are targeted towards skilled and unskilled workers. The H-2B Work Visa for Skilled and Unskilled Workers Application Guide is comprehensive, detailed, and easy to understand. It contains everything one needs in order to successfully apply for a H-2B Visa.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

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H1B Cap : July 24, 2009 Update

The H1B cap count remains unchanged. The USCIS issued a count of the cases received as of July 24, 2009, which was identical to the previous one. There have been 44,900 regular cap cases and 20,000 advanced-degree cap cases filed for the fiscal year 2010 limits. As of this writing, the USCIS continues to accept cases under both the regular and advanced-degree caps.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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Analysis: The next H-1B fight begins by Labor Day

Source: ComputerWorld
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill by Labor Day that seems certain to include a way to increase the H-1B cap.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill by Labor Day that seems certain to include a way to increase the H-1B cap. By introducing the bill in the worse possible economic climate, and then citing Labor Day as his deadline for introducing it, you could almost argue that Schumer is egging on his opponents. But that's not new for him. Among the people he has enlisted to help him is Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who testified this year at an immigration committee hearing that the cap protects U.S. workers from global competition, creating a "privileged elite."

Schumer's view follows naturally from his unabashed support of the H-1B visa program and his belief that foreign workers are critical to U.S. economic success. And as head of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, Schumer is in a position to make changes.

Schumer outlined his plans in an interview with Associated Press last week; the bill is still being drafted.

The Senate has had no problem approving increases in the H-1B cap in the past. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, for instance, proposed raising the cap on H-1B visas to 115,000 and included a market-cap provision that allowed the the number of visas to grow by 20% a year if the prior cap was reached.

The cap is now set at 85,000, which includes 20,000 that are set aside for people who earn masters degree.

This time around, Schumer may take a different approach on high-skilled immigration.

One proposal that may get traction in Congress would create an independent commission to manage employment-based visas. The commission would determine whether there are labor shortages and have the authority to make annual adjustments on the cap based on economic need. That idea was pitched by the AFL-CIO in April. Schumer will also have to deal with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), both of whom are on the immigration subcommittee and have introduced legislation restricting H-1B use to the ire of Indian government and industry groups, in particular. Durbin and Grassley are among the harshest critics of the H-1B visa.

In a speech last month before an immigration policy group, Schumer outlined what he wants to achieve when it comes to high skilled workers.

"We must encourage the world's best and brightest individuals to come to the United States and create new technologies and business that will employ countless American workers, but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less-expensive foreign labor to replace capable American workers," said Schumer. Schumer also endorsed a report in 2007, Sustaining New York's and the U.S. Global Financial Services Leadership, prepared by McKinsey & Co., that called for increasing access to H-1B visas to help keep the financial services industry competitive. President Barack Obama has appointed a top McKinsey official, Diana Farrell, to serve in his administration as a deputy economic advisor.

Angela Kelly, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based group that's headed John Podesta, President Clinton's former chief of staff, said an element of any immigration reform bill would have to be its labor protections.

"How do we ensure that by bringing these workers in we're not disadvantaging American workers and how do we invest in our folks for the long haul, so that we've got kids in computer science, math, and engineering programs, which are right now, frankly, dominated by kids who aren't from the U.S. That's the reality and we need to deal with it," she said, in a conference call with reporters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

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Why Skilled Immigrants Are Leaving the U.S.: BusinessWeek

-Other Lands of Opportunity: China and India
-Green Card Applicants Have a Long Wait
-New research shows that highly skilled workers are returning home for brighter career prospects and a better quality of life.

Lured by the prospect of climbing to the top of his field, New Delhi native Swaroop Ganguly came to the US 10 years ago and earned a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. He became an expert in an emerging technology called spintronics, used to power semiconductors, and worked at several chip companies, including Freescale Semiconductor. But Ganguly, now 32, is moving back to India this summer.

Although he has been doing postdoctoral work at the University of Texas, he figures his prospects for research and professional development are probably better in his home country. "I feel quite excited about going back," he says.

Ganguly has already accepted a job as a professor of electrical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. The position will pay a fraction of the salary he had been earning in the private sector—about $15,000 compared with $100,000—but it will offer considerably more job security and the freedom to do the exploratory research he wants to do. "The real lure of being in the US is to do really innovative work, but the space for that seems to be shrinking," he says. "The Indian government is putting a huge amount of funding into science and technology, so even if they can't pay high salaries, it's an attractive prospect."

Ganguly is one of a number of highly skilled immigrants preparing to leave the US as the nation's economy slows. With the US unemployment rate approaching double digits, job opportunities are diminishing and calls to restrict immigration have gotten louder. Those who favor tightening the rules argue that US citizens should get first priority for jobs.

A Blow to Prospects for Economic Recovery
But the issue is tricky when it comes to the most educated and skilled immigrants—people like Ganguly. When well-paid individuals leave the country, that cuts into already depleted tax revenues for state and local governments. The departure of top talent in technology and science may also undercut the prospects for a recovery in the US, many economists say. These immigrants often start companies and come up with technological breakthroughs, creating new job opportunities for all.

"We benefit from a flow of really smart people coming here to work in our companies and start new ones," says David Hart, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., who co-authored a study on immigrant entrepreneurship released this month. "It's important that the US remain a magnet for people who fuel innovation and growth."

The Obama Administration has said it will push for comprehensive immigration reform later this year, but it's unclear if any legislation will pass or how it would affect skilled immigrants. One unresolved issue is how to define a "skilled" immigrant. While many politicians would support policies to attract the most educated and highly paid, there is more controversy over foreign workers who come into the US on H-1B visas, which require only a bachelor's degree and, in many cases, modest salaries. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate immigration subcommittee, said in June that US policy will aim to "encourage the world's best and brightest individuals to come to the US and create the new technologies and businesses...but must discourage businesses from using our immigration laws as a means to obtain temporary and less expensive foreign labour."

Other Lands of Opportunity: China and India
Advocates for skilled immigrants emphasise the value they create and warn against developing overly restrictive policies. Dr. Jan Vilcek, a professor of microbiology at New York University School of Medicine, defected from Czechoslovakia in 1964 and is now renowned in his field for treatments he developed for chronic illnesses such as Crohn's disease. He co-founded a New York-based nonprofit called the Vilcek Foundation to enhance the public profile of exceptional immigrants. "Foreign-born entrepreneurs and scientists are a tremendous asset to the US economy," Vilcek says. "It is tragic that bureaucratic obstacles are preventing more talented and motivated people from helping to get us out of the economic slump."

For now, economic woes—and to a lesser extent, immigration policies—are the most acute problem driving departures from the US A study by Duke University professor and Harvard researcher Vivek Wadhwa, for example, found that among Chinese nationals who emigrated to the US and later returned home, 72% said they thought professional opportunities were better in China. Among Indians who returned home, 56% said the same of their country. Wadhwa estimates that as many as 200,000 skilled workers from India and China will go home over the next five years, compared with roughly 100,000 over the past 20 years.

"We're in a recession, and there is enough good talent now [in the US], but long term, it will hurt like you won't believe," says Wadhwa, who is also a columnist. "Losing critical talent means arming the US's competition. The next Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), or Apple (AAPL) could be launched in Shanghai or Bangalore."

Green Card Applicants Have a Long Wait
Kapil, a 33-year-old software consultant for IBM (IBM) in Silicon Valley, shares Vilcek's frustration. (Kapil asked that his last name not be used out of concern for his job.) He joined IBM in 2001 with the hope of gaining permanent residency in the US so he could ultimately start his own company. IBM filed an application for his green card for permanent residence in 2004, and he has yet to receive it. Due to limits that allow for just 9,800 green cards per year per country, the wait for people from India and China can be up to 10 years. Kapil estimates that his five-year wait could stretch into 7 or 10. In the meantime, he remains on an H-1B visa tied to IBM, where he must keep the same position to remain in the green card queue. He's earning six figures now, he says, but suspects he could earn more if he had the freedom to change jobs. "I'm not allowed to advance, and it's really frustrating," says Kapil. "At this point, I'm losing my patience."

Kapil is eager to found a startup. He has developed the technology for an online job-search engine that taps into social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. He says he is considering launching it from India. "Most likely, I am heading back," he says. "In a way, I feel cheated. I've contributed, paid taxes, and even picked up a California accent. But it's not enough."

Arun Kumar, 30, is also in the US on an H-1B visa and is considering moving to Canada. Kumar, who lives just north of Philadelphia, works for a US bank and is helping to develop a startup within the company. His employer, the name of which he asked not be used, put in his application for a green card last year. Kumar realises that it could take years for his application to move through the queue, and he's growing restless to start his own business. He has the capital to launch his product, an educational tool to help sixth- to eighth-graders learn math and science. But he doesn't want to do so in the US because assuming a new job or even changing titles within his own company would nullify his existing green card application. Kumar and his wife are now considering moving to Toronto, where they could more quickly become permanent residents.

"I feel restricted here," says Kumar. "I understand the US has a responsibility to its citizens, and I understand its dilemma. But the country would be better off if it could isolate and identify skilled workers who want to come here and build things and welcome them in."
Source: BusinessWeek

Monday, July 20, 2009

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TCS makes no H1B visa application this fiscal

Tata Consultancy Services has not filed for a single H1B visa this year mainly due to its focus on shifting more work to low-cost destinations such as India and China.

Moreover, the company already has around 18,000 employees with valid H1B visas, both in India and overseas, said Mr Ajoy Mukherjee, Vice-President and Head Global Human Resources.

TCS relocated over 1,000 of its overseas staff during the quarter ended June 30 to increase offshoring revenues. The move had a positive impact of about 95 basis points on the company’s margins.

According to him, bringing back staff to India is beneficial for TCS, its clients and its employees. “If you shift work offshore, the customer’s overall costs reduce. It is advantageous for TCS because margins are obviously higher when you deliver from an offshore location. For employees too, it is good as they get to work in their home base,” said Mr Mukherjee.

The people who were called back were stationed at its centres in the US, the UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

“These are not the sales people but those involved in actual projects and delivery. Instead of doing it from the customer’s location, they would now carry forward from our India location,” he said. TCS feels that there is ‘more scope left’ to move work and people onshore.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

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H1B Cap : July 10, 2009 Update

The H1B cap count moved backward slightly, with a count of 44,900 as of July 10, 2009. No explanation was provided for the decrease. Both the advanced-degree and regular caps remain open for FY2010.

Friday, July 10, 2009

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H1B Cap : July 3, 2009 Update

The H1B cap count continues to inch forward, with an approximate count of 45,000 as of July 3, 2009. This is a slight increase over the last count. As of this writing, both the advanced-degree and regular caps remain open for FY2010.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

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H1B petitions: Over 20,000 vacancies still left

Nearly three months after the US immigration agency started accepting petitions for the H-1B visas for highly-skilled foreign professionals, it is still looking for more than 20,000 applications to fill the Congressionally-mandated cap of 65,000.

Amid the economic downturn and protectionist provisions in the US stimulus package, the demand for the visas, which is mostly availed by Indian professionals, has slowed down. The latest figures released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reveal that approximately 44,800 H-1B petitions have been received by it so far.

In the last few years, there was huge demand of H-1B visas, with the USCIS receiving several times the quota of 65,000 in the first few days itself. It had to resort to computerised lottery to determine the successful applicants.

But with current economic downturn and certain provisions in the economic stimulus package, the H-1B petitions to the USCIS centres are now coming in ones and twos.

This is in contrast to the last few years, when the US Postal Services had been making special arrangements for delivery of bundles of H-1B petitions. The economic stimulus package prevents hiring of foreign workers by companies receiving federal aid money.

However, officials at the USCIS said it is work back to normal. "This is what it used to be couple of years ago, before it turned out to be a great rush in the last few years," a USCIS official said.

The USCIS also said it would continue to receive applications for the advanced degree category, in which the cap is 20,000. The USCIS had received about 20,000 H-1B petitions in the first few days itself, but it is still continuing to accept such applications, it said.

"USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn," it said.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

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H1B Cap : June 19, 2009 Update

The USCIS cap count as of June 19, 2009 reports 44,500 regular cap cases. This is slightly higher than the cap count given on June 12, but is still lower than a count given for May 22, 2009. As of this writing, both the Advanced Degree and Regular H1B Caps remain open. We will continue to provide updated cap count information as it is made available.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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H1B Cap: Count Decreases to 44,000 as of June 12, 2009

US visas for foreign workers still available:
The most recent USCIS H1B cap count indicates a lower number of cases than had been previously reported. The updated count reports the receipt of 44,400 “regular” cap cases, through June 12, 2009. This is lower than the previous count of 47,700, given as of May 22, 2009. No explanation was provided. Thus, this reduced number may reflect either withdrawals by employers, denials by the USCIS, duplicate filings, or an error in the prior cap counts.
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US protectionism will be counter-productive: Azim Premji

Wipro Technologies founder Azim Premji, has stressed that the recent American decision to clamp down on H1B visas for skilled workers which could halve the number of Indian IT specialists entering the country, would be counter-productive.

"If we get into protectionism, then the West is going to get a wave of protectionism in response, and that is going to turn back the clock 20 years," Premji told The Sunday Times. "And it will be America and Europe that suffer," he said because they will be excluded from the only growth markets left, in Asia, Africa and China. You are not going to grow at 10 per cent trading in London, are you," he asked.

Premji, who holds 79 per cent stake in Wipro, one of the world's biggest software support groups said, "We will grow this year, though it won't be at the 16 per cent rate of last year. First, there is significant slowdown taking place, there are budget cuts, deferment of decisions..."

Wipro Technologies, headquartered in Bangalore and with revenues of 3 billion pounds, has become the world's largest provider of independent research and development services, working with technology partners like Microsoft and Cisco.

In Britain it provides IT services for firms, including Tesco, Wm Morrison and Friends Provident. Beyond IT, Wipro also has interests in consumer products, medical systems and engineering divisions. "We are the second-largest hydraulic cylinder company in the world," Premji said.

The Indian outsourcing giants would benefit from the current downturn, as all multinationals seek further economies, he said. But will an Indian IT giant ever buy one of its larger western rivals. He shrugs. Wipro has always preferred to buy small, Premji added.

The founder of the IT giant further indicated that he would pass over large amount of shares to his education foundation in India.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

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FAQs: H1B Workers and Layoffs

Question 1. I am in H1B status, but I also filed my I-485 and received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Do I need to maintain H1B status, or can I just rely upon my EAD?

It is permissible to rely upon the EAD. However, it is advisable to maintain H1B status if possible. The level of risk when relying upon the pending I-485 and EAD depends upon the specifics of the case. The risk is much greater if the employer's I-140 petition has not been approved. Some of these matters were addressed in articles on AC21 "green card" portability, available on MurthyDotCom.

Question 2. I was laid off a month ago and my company has informed me that it sent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a letter revoking my H1B petition. What happens if I find another H1B employer in the meantime?

The USCIS typically takes several months to process H1B revocation notices. The revocation does not prevent the approval of an H1B by a new employer, although the ability to extend H1B status in the U.S. is affected by whether or not the individual is maintaining H1B status at the time the new employer files its H1B petition.

As a practical matter, the revocation of the H1B may not appear in the USCIS system immediately. However, this is a matter of procedure and not official policy. It is necessary to make efforts to find another job as soon as possible and have the new employer sponsor another H1B promptly. The USCIS will review the proof of status submitted with the new employer's case. This is normally in the form of current pay stubs. If there are not current pay stubs as proof of continuing status, it may not be possible to obtain an extension of stay (reflected in an approval notice with an I-94 at the bottom.) Thus, the new employer's H1B petition may be approved, but with an instruction to depart the U.S. and request a visa at a U.S. consulate. In this event, it would be necessary to travel abroad, obtain a new H1B visa at the consulate (if needed), and obtain a new I-94 card at the Port of Entry.


Question 3. I have an H1B petition with Company B and was just laid off. I have an H1B petition through Company A, where I used to work, which has not expired. Company A would like me to come back to work for them. They did not revoke the H1B petition when I left. Can I go back to work for Company A?

Potentially, yes. Under a USCIS opinion letter, it is permissible to return to work for employers with "dormant" H1B petitions and maintain status in that fashion. This may create issues for the employer, as employers are required to pay H1B employees, unless they are terminated. Therefore, Company A in this situation was required to revoke the H1B petition upon the termination of employment. By hiring the employee again later, there is a potential for the Department of Labor to enforce payment of back wages. (Of course, this potential also exists when the H1B petition isn't terminated, even without rehiring the employee.) This is an employer matter. Employers in this situation should consult with their immigration attorneys to protect their interests.


Question 4. If I am being laid off, can I apply for some other status?

In certain circumstances, it may be possible to apply for another status. There are a number of different options. Depending upon one's individual circumstances, s/he may qualify for another category. The most direct option, if it is available, would be as a dependant of one's spouse. This is potentially possible if one has a spouse who holds an independent nonimmigrant status, such as her/his own H1B, L1A or L1B. This may permit a change to H-4 or L-2. The L-2 is particularly beneficial, since it allows one to request employment authorization.

Some individuals apply for student status (F-1), if they wish to return to school to further their educations. This can be a good option, as people often choose to enhance their skills during difficult economic times. There are those who may choose to depart the U.S. and look for options in their home countries or elsewhere. These individuals may be eligible to apply for changes of status to tourist (B-2) in order to wrap up their affairs in the United States.


Question 5. If I apply to change my status, is it then possible to revert to H1B if I find a new employer?

Generally, yes. It can be a bit complex and confusing if the first request to change status is not yet granted. It is generally best not to have multiple applications or petitions filed in parallel. These issues of coordination of filings should be discussed with a qualified immigration attorney.

It is normally possible to change, for example, from H-4 status back to H1B, if one is eligible for more time in H1B status. The change to H-4 or any other interim status does not subject the individual to the H1B cap. The same is true of changing back to H1B after completion of studies as an F-1.


Question 6. What happens if I am terminated but the company keeps me on as an employee without pay?

It is extremely unlikely that USCIS will consider a person as being “in status” when s/he is not actually employed and being paid. This is a dangerous option to pursue, both for the individual and the company. When applying for a change or extension of status, it is expected that one's current status is documented by recent pay stubs. Without these, the USCIS is unlikely to regard one as having been in status. It may, in this situation, be possible to obtain an H1B petition approval for consular processing, rather than as an extension or change of status in the United States.


Question 7. If the company gives me a severance package that includes receiving pay for two months or more after I am laid off, am I still considered terminated and therefore “out of status” during those months?

According to a legacy INS memo on the subject, H1B workers are considered out of status from the day they stop working. It makes no difference that they may still be receiving pay. However, status is normally shown through pay stubs submitted with the new employer's H1B petition. As long as there is no misrepresentation of the situation, since the USCIS often overlooks brief gaps in pay stubs, it may be possible to obtain an extension or change of status during a period when one is receiving severance payments.


Question 8. Can I still file for an H1B "transfer" one month from the time I was laid off? What about four months from the time I was laid off? I do not have recent pay stubs.

Technically, H1B status ended upon termination of the position. Since H1Bs are not "transferred," however, the fact that one does not hold H1B status does not prevent obtaining approval of an H1B petition through a new employer. USCIS regulations prohibit the change or extension of status for individuals who are out of status (with limited exception for certain unusual situations). Status for H1B workers normally is demonstrated via pay stubs. However, the USCIS is sometimes a bit flexible and will overlook minor gaps in status when making decisions regarding these cases. If the gap in status is too great, the employer may be able to obtain the approval of the H1B petition, but it will not be accompanied by an I-94 authorizing additional time in H1B status in the U.S. It will be approved for consular processing outside the U.S. This means that it becomes necessary to leave the country, make application for an H1B visa at a U.S. consulate (if needed) and obtain an I-94 card upon reentry. If there have been extended periods without status, this may create problems in obtaining a new visa at the consulate. There are also matters of bars on reentry to the U.S. for individuals who were unlawfully present in the United States for extended periods. Thus, the importance of having each situation analyzed by an experienced and qualified immigration attorney, who can assess these risk factors, cannot be over stated.


Question 9. I was recently laid off and was told that my employer is obligated to continue paying me until the USCIS revokes the petition. Is this true?

According to Department of Labor (DOL) Regulations, an employer must continue to pay the H1B worker until there is a “bona fide” termination of the employment relationship. There are various cases interpreting the precise expectations in different ways. Employers would be well advised to put terminations clearly in writing, and take all necessary internal steps within their organizations. They must also request revocation of the H1B petition in a timely manner, and comply with the return airfare obligation. As it can take several months for the USCIS to act on a request to revoke, employers generally do not continue wages awaiting this action. An employer usually notifies the employee of the termination date, and continues payment only for the length of any standard company notice or severance pay policy.


The U.S. economy suffers downturns at times that are followed by periods of relative prosperity. Even financial experts do not seem to know how long the economy will struggle before there is a recovery. While difficult for everyone, such conditions can be particularly stressful for foreign nationals in employment-dependent immigration statuses. We at the Murthy Law Firm will continue to guide our readers so that they can manage their immigration through these trying times.