The H1B visa program has yet to see new legislative changes, but under the guidance of President Trump there is a relentless administrative movement to restrict all manners of H1B fraud and abuse. In case would be sponsors and applicants think the program continues unchanged, they should be aware that there is a new level of review, enforcement and publicity for those that attempt to sidestep the program requirements or purpose.
The H1B Visa ‘Perp Walk’
One historic means of deterring crime of all types is the “perp walk”, where the convicted are put on public display to show others what happens when they cross the legal line. The Department of Labor’s new Secretary Alexander Acosta, has begun to roll out this very strategy to illustrate the crackdown on H1B visa abuse and fraud. The results are made public with details about both fines and jail terms imposed on violators of the H1B visa program rules.
The perpetrators of fraud include attorneys, agents, sponsor CEOs and the applicants themselves, and no one is being spared scrutiny and conviction. We can expect this trend to continue and intensify, since one easy way to restrict the program is to enforce existing rules and criteria more strictly.
Types of H1B Visa Fraud Being Publicized
There are various ways that some sponsors, agents or applicants attempt to abuse the H1B system for personal or financial gain. The specific types of fraud include:
- Falsifying job titles, duties and compensation offered
- Providing false information about work history, area of specialty and educational background
- Charging high fees for applicants to ‘guarantee’ a position, that may actually be a temporary or non-existent position
- Re-routing cash payments and charging commissions as a part of salary, at the cost of the foreign worker
Here is quick sample of the recent H1B visa ‘perps’, some of whom are simply con artists looking to take advantage of foreign applicants:
- A Virginia attorney and the employees of an IT staffing company were convicted of H1B visa fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice as they tried to cover their crimes.
- An Indian national acting as an agent lured applicants into paying high fees and a portion of salary for obtaining a position. His charges included wire fraud, witness tampering and false statements to immigration authorities.
- The CEO of an IT staffing company pled guilty to charges of fraud by creating a fictional relationship with a potential sponsor, when there were no actual positions offered or contracted for. Further, the CEO directed others to lie to immigration officials to cover up the fraud.
- A husband and wife team of an attorney and owner of a staffing company were fined $1million for H1B fraud, and the attorney was disbarred.
- The steepest penalty publicized was that for a company president who used fraud to obtain H1B visas, as he was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $1.5 million.
Conclusion: The Trump Administration and Federal Immigration Agencies are Serious About H1B Visa Fraud and Abuse
It is well known that the H1B program has been loosely enforced over the years, as it was not seen as a major issue for the US government to allocate resources. But immigration as an overall policy area is now front and center, and criminal attempts to misuse the program or circumvent the rules is being met with immediate enforcement and prosecution.
In many ways, this is good news for legitimate sponsors and applicants, as the H1B program is getting refined and cleaned to allow qualified workers to find a job in the US.
- December 15th, 2017