H1Bing for outsourcing workers... where do you stand?

July 15, 2007 | Phil Fersht

Unclesam The last post on Horses for Sources - "Has the Lou Dobbs factor faded?" - certainly got several people voicing their opinions on the outsourcing of jobs to India (and please feel free to air your views publicly on this site rather than email them directly to me!).  Personally, I think the whole argument about the pros and cons of offshoring services has been done-to-death, but one issue that has been raised, concerns the allocation of H1B Visas to offshore outsourcing suppliers looking to bolster their onshore workforces to improve their service delivery:  Should offshore firms have the right to "import" their labor into the US in addition to "exporting" US jobs oversees? 

I'm probably not the best person to provide an balanced argument here, being an H1B Visa-holder myself (but I don't work for an outsourcing provider), so I am inviting you to cast your vote to the left of this post. Personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working in the USA and helping some US firms develop their services - and hope I am adding some value along the way - and I strongly encourage skilled US workers to apply for temporary work visas to experience working in the UK (my country), Europe or Asia, if they have the opportunity.  Working in dynamic business environments across the globe is such a great developmental experience for people in today's economy. However, the key issue now is whether the offshore outsourcing providers should be entitled to create onshore jobs for foreign workers to help run and develop outsourcing services. So have your say!

I did want to relay some key facts regarding temporary work visas that outsourcing providers typically use for skilled immigrant workers.  There are two types of Visas outsourcing suppliers use to bring skilled immigrant workers over to the US:

1) The L1 Visa:  This applies to an employee working within a foreign subsidiary of a global firm, has over a year of service with that company already completed, and wants to be transferred to a US office of that organization.  The requirement is simply that the firm was unable to find a local US worker who could do that exact job, and that job required a specific qualifying expertise, or was a unique management position that fulfilled certain (strict) qualifying criteria.  The sponsoring firm will have to prove they advertised the job first in the US and was unable to find a suitable candidate.  There is no cap on L1s, and 7 of the top 10 L1 users in 2006, according to the US Senate - were Outsourcing providers that were either headquartered, or had their largest employment base, located in India. 

TOP TEN COMPANIES RECEIVING L1 VISAS (2006)

Rank Company Headquarters Primary Employment Base L-1 Visa Received
1 Tata Mumbai, India India 4887
2 Cognizant Technology Solutions New Jersey India 3520
3 IBM Armonk, New York USA 1237
4 Satyam Hyderabad, India India 950
5 Wipro Bangalore, India India 839
6 Hindustan Computers Ltd. (HCL) Noida, India India 511
7 Deloitte & Touche LLP New York, New York USA 512
8 Patni Computer Systems Mumbai, India India 440
9 Intel Corporation Santa Clara, California USA 394
10 Kanbay Chicago, Pune, Hyderabad, and Chennai India 329

Source: US Senate, 2007

2) The H1-B Visa:  H1B visas apply to skilled individuals applying for jobs with US companies.  As long as the US company is a registered corporation or LLC, the visa is dependent on the university qualifications of the individual to fulfill a specialist role within that US company.  Unlike L1s, H1Bs are subject to a cap for commercial workers, and this allocation of H1B Visas has been dramatically reduced from 195,000 in 2003 to only 65,000 in 2008, with an additional 20,000 made available for worked with US Masters degrees.  This is an exceedingly minute percentage of the US working population (of the fractions of a single percentile).  Like L1s, 7 of the top 10 H1B users in 2006, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service - were Outsourcing providers that were either headquartered, or had their largest employment base, located in India. 

TOP TEN COMPANIES RECEIVING H1-B VISAS (2006)

Rank Company Headquarters Primary Employment Base H-1Bs received 2006
1 Infosys Bangalore, India India 4,908
2 Wipro Bangalore, India India 4,002
3 Microsoft Redmond, Washington USA 3,117
4 Tata Mumbai, India India 3,046
5 Satyam Hyderabad, India India 2,880
6 Cognizant Technology Solutions Teaneck, New Jersey India 2,226
7 Patni Computer Systems Mumbai, India India 1,391
8 IBM Armonk, New York USA 1,130
9 Oracle Corporation Redwood Shores, California USA 1,022
10 Larsen & Toubro Infotech Mumbai, India India 947

Source:  United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, 2007

B/w - thanks to Steve Dunkerley from The Finance Director magazine for contributing these data points,

PF.

Posted in: Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

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