As more companies turn to H-1B visa workers, North Carolina taxpayers are helping foot the bill.
Among those applying to use the visa workers are companies that have been awarded millions of dollars in state grants under agreements to create jobs in Charlotte and elsewhere.
And it’s legal for those companies to meet their job-creation requirements with foreign workers, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
“State law governing incentives does not address visas and, therefore, does not prevent companies from using H-1B visa workers,” Commerce Department spokeswoman Kim Genardo said in an email.
The trend is playing out in Charlotte, where companies receiving state incentives have sought to place visa workers.
In 2014, the state awarded New Jersey-based Spectra Group a $2.9 million grant to create 250 jobs in Charlotte. Since then, the information technology and financial services firm submitted initial applications for 10 visa workers to be based in Charlotte and Fort Mill, S.C., according to federal data.
Another company, outsourcing firm HCL Technologies, was awarded more than $19 million in state grants in 2014 in exchange for expanding in Wake County. HCL said it planned to invest $9 million expanding a facility in Cary and creating an additional 1,237 jobs there by the end of 2018.
In a statement when the 2014 incentives were announced, HCL referred to Cary as a “strategic talent hub.”
Last year, the Noida, India-based company filed initial applications for more than 2,000 H-1B workers based in North Carolina, the vast majority in Wake County.
Neither Spectra nor HCL could be reached for comment. It’s unclear if either will seek to have H-1B visa workers counted toward their employment totals required by their incentives.
Former Congressman Bruce Morrison, principal author of the 1990 law that created the H-1B visa, said states that dole out incentives for job creation shouldn’t let those firms fill the positions with visa workers.
“My visceral reaction is it’s a shame,” Morrison said. “The taxpayers ... have been taken for a ride.”