01 May 2012

Boeing face US visa enquiry

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An American Senator has written to the Homeland Security Department regarding concerns over aerospace company Boeing's use of the US visa to bring in Russian engineers.

US visa

An American Senator has raised concerns Aerospace giant Boeing may have abused the US visa programme.

Chuck Grassley, the Republican Senator from Iowa, has sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano raising concerns over Boeing's use of the B-1 class of US visa to bring Russian contract engineers into the United States.

Senator Grassley cited an article in the Seattle Times from last October when 18 Russian engineers were turned away from Seattle airport by US immigration officials.

Senator Grassley enquired whether an investigation will be carried out as to the legitimacy and eligibility of the Russians as well as Boeing's past use of American visas by the company to bring in foreign labour.

Outsourcing has become a delicate issue in recent weeks with Indian software giant Infosys facing an investigation over their alleged misuse of the visa programme to hire cheap foreign labour as opposed to locally sourced alternatives and Senator Grassley expressed his disappointment that Boeing's case has largely gone unnoticed.

"It has come to my attention that The Boeing Company may have employed similar tactics [as Infosys] to bring in foreign workers," wrote Senator Grassley.

The B-1 subclass of US visa is intended for foreign nationals to enter the US as part of a business trip; holders are permitted to train and liaise with American companies but cannot enter into any direct employment for an American company.

Companies wishing to outsource labour to foreign nationals in the US must do so using the H-1B subclass of non-immigrant work visa yet the 18 engineers turned away in October appeared to be entering for other purposes.

Senator Grassley has asked the two departments for details on how many B-1 visas Boeing has applied for over the past five years as well as data regarding previous visits of the 18 Russian engineers.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace has supported the senator's concerns, claiming that overseas workers take opportunities which American engineers could do.

In a statement, Boeing said the Russian engineers had been invited to the US once more following discussions with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) concurred with an internal review over the practice of applying for B-1 visas.

"It will continue to be essential for [overseas] Boeing personnel to travel regularly to the United States for activities related to the engineering work packages performed at the Boeing Design Center in Moscow," said the statement.

The departments of State and Homeland Security declined to comment on the case.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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