Labor brokers providing Indian high-tech workers to American companies have hijacked a professional visa program, creating an underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit.
About 840,000 people from around the world work in the United States on temporary visas, intended to help companies seek uniquely talented employees for specific jobs. In the tech realm, labor brokers often sponsor the visas, then contract out the workers to technology companies or government agencies to build databases, test software and complete other technical projects.
For decades, critics have sounded alarms about immigrant tech workers being treated as indentured servants by the worst of these staffing firms, known as “body shops.” In a yearlong investigation, The Center for Investigative Reporting has documented why this exploitation persists – through humiliation, intimidation and legal threats. Judgments against Indian workers sued for quitting their U.S. jobs can exceed $50,000.
One worker called it an “ecosystem of fear.”