A recent report has exposed the myriad abuses committed against Indian high-tech workers employed by American companies. According to The Guardian, brokers have “hijacked” the professional visa program, creating a system of “bondage” resulting in wage theft and other abuses against Indian workers. Many workers who have quit or tried to leave the system have even been sued by the brokerage companies. In the United States, professionals can obtain a temporary visa to work for companies who are seeking “uniquely talented employees” for specific jobs. In the tech market, labor brokers will often sponsor the visas and contract out employees to tech companies and government agencies.
The workers are specifically trained and offer special skills in building databases, testing software and other high-tech projects. Critics of this indentured service-like arrangement for high-tech workers have pointed out that workers are exploited through humiliation, intimidation and other legal threats. In some cases, Indian workers have been sued for upwards of $50,000, just for trying to leave the company. The firms are also capitalizing on workers’ hopes for achieving the American Dream and finding permanent employment in the U.S.
Workers who obtain an H-1B visa through a brokerage firm are forced to comply with illegal working conditions, and are threatened if they report abuses. Based on government and external reports, there have been thousands of documents filed that evidence intimidation, restrictions on employment contracts, and other legal loopholes that deprive workers of their rights. According to The Guardian, there has been at least $29.7 million illegally withheld from 4,400 tech workers between 2000 and 2013. The numbers are alarming considering they barely scratch the surface in identifying wage theft that may have occurred in other firms and underground financial arrangements.