A record fine against Infosys Ltd. targets outsourcing companies and their alleged abuse of existing immigration laws to feed the insatiable desire for highly skilled engineers in the U.S.

Infosys has been sending employees to the U.S. with B-1 visitor visas, letting it sidestep caps on H1-Bs — the permits designed for high-tech workers. To settle the case, the company agreed to pay a $34 million penalty to Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas, according to a filing yesterday in federal court in Texas. The fine is the largest ever for the outsourcing industry, which manages tasks for customers using a mix of on- and offshore labor.

The move might also inject the use of visitor visas into the congressional debate over immigration reform.

While technology companies ranging from International Business Machines Corp. to Microsoft Corp. to Facebook Inc. rely on temporary H-1B work visas to hire thousands of employees, outsourcing companies use a variety of tactics to bring staff into the U.S. on work permits — whether for training, consulting projects or longer-range jobs.

Infosys said it agreed to yesterday's settlement to "remove the uncertainty of prolonged litigation." There were no criminal charges against the company, and it won't be limited in applying for federal contracts or visa programs.

"Infosys denies and disputes any claims of systemic visa fraud, misuse of visas for competitive advantage, or immigration abuse," the company said yesterday in a statement.

India is the biggest source of guest workers hired through H-1Bs, a nonimmigrant specialist visa that lasts three to six years.