News of the hiring spree, due to be announced on Tuesday, is likely to be seen as a win for the White House as it tries to push companies into creating more US jobs. The administration announced a review of the H-1B visa programme a fortnight ago, aimed at stemming the flow of low-cost workers brought in by companies such as Infosys.
Vishal Sikka, Infosys chief executive, acknowledged that the local hiring push came when companies such as his were under pressure to recruit more Americans. “Yes it does coincide,” he said. “I understand the visa regulations and so forth.”
However, he said the main reason for the spurt in local hiring reflected the changing nature of the work his company performed. New technologies such as artificial intelligence were evolving his company’s business, putting more emphasis on local hires who could work closely with customers, he said. “You need a strong sense of locality in the work we do.”
News of the recruitment plan was due to be announced at an event with Eric Holcomb, Indiana governor, on Tuesday. It would include 2,000 new jobs in the state at one of four new “innovation hubs”, or technology centres, that Infosys is planning to build in the US, the company said.
Infosys was among the companies singled out by US officials last month when they announced a review of how H-1B visas are allocated. Salaries paid to workers brought into the country by Indian IT services companies undercut those of American workers, the White House maintained.
Indian companies are said to flood the system with applications so they stand the best chance of winning in the lottery used to allocate the 85,000 visas on offer. Infosys filed more than 25,000 visa applications last year, more than any other company, according to MyVisaJobs.com, which collates data from applications.
The White House has yet to say how it might change the allocations, although officials have suggested scrapping the lottery and replacing it with a system that gives visas to the most skilled or highest-paid workers. The top Indian IT companies pay an average of $60,000-$65,000 a year, one US official said, with four out of five workers paid below the median salary for locals with the same jobs.
According to MyVisaJobs, Infosys offered its H-1B applicants an average of $81,705 last year. But that was still lower than the salaries paid by leading US tech companies that rely on H-1Bs to fill gaps in their engineering ranks. Google and Microsoft each offered an average of $130,000 to the workers who applied for the visas last year.
Worries that a clampdown on the visa regime will force Indian IT companies to pay more to service their customers in the US have weighed on their stocks since the presidential election. But Mr Sikka said the accelerated hiring his company was planning was matched to more valuable types of work, so would not affect profits.
“I don’t see a direct correlation there,” he said. “These are high-margin, high-salary, high-value jobs.”
Infosys does not disclose how many of its 200,000 workers are in the US. When it announced plans to hire 2,100 Americans in 2014, it called the effort a “major recruitment drive”.
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