December 26, 2000, 5:11 PM —
AS THE NUMBER OFforeign IS workers in the United States grows, so do the challenges facing companies that employ them. For example, at Syntel -- a provider of IT services and e-business solutions -- more than 60 percent of our current U.S. staff consists of foreign workers, almost all within IT. As a result, we are constantly dealing with a major challenge: complying with immigration and naturalization regulations.
For those of you who haven't yet begun to rely heavily on foreign workers, let's briefly review the process: First, a prospective employer must establish that there is a shortage of U.S. citizens to fill a certain type of job. The company then locates a foreign worker and applies for a temporary visa from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for that person. The worker can be hired when the visa is approved. If that employee wishes to remain in the United States after the visa expires, the company needs to file for an extension.
The rules regarding work visas for foreign employees are strict, and the consequences of noncompliance can be steep: significant fines, removal of the affected workers from the country, criminal penalties for officers of the company, even a total ban on hiring workers outside the United States.
In the past, managing immigration requirements at Syntel required huge amounts of time. Our legal, human resources, recruiting and accounting staffs kept track of employee data individually. Each department's process was largely manual, which was not only slow, but there was great potential for inaccuracies that might make it necessary for a valuable employee to suddenly leave the country and a key assignment.
To unify our systems, reduce dependence on manual data entry and ensure compliance with government regulation in both the financial and immigration areas, we recently decided to implement the PeopleSoft enterprise resource planning system. However, we found no commercial software package capable of handling our complex immigration compliance requirements. Instead, after conducting extensive interviews to find out about the workflow in question, IS managers created a system from scratch using the PeopleTools application developer -- a single, integrated development environment that simplifies the application customization process. IS did a tremendous job of designing a system that helped the people doing the work get their work done, as opposed to designing a system that was effective only in theory. Now Syntel can coordinate every phase of the immigration process.