When a non-immigrant wants to work in the US there are a number of visas available, but the most difficult to obtain can be the H1B visa for ‘specialty occupations’. The popularity of this program, especially for Indian IT workers, has led to abuses and fraud by individuals who exploit the foreign workers for financial gain.
Recent cases involving H1B visa fraud has underscored the complex issues surrounding a fair distribution of work visas for non-immigrants. While some complain that the H1B visa program is taking jobs from US citizens, a less noticed effect is the abuse of foreign visa applicants by ‘consulting’ companies.
A $20 Million Visa Fraud
A couple in Virginia recently pled guilty to charges of fraud in the H1B visa program, that netted them over $20 million over a multi-year period. There method was simple, but effective:
- They set up a number of “shell” consulting and outsourcing companies that claimed to provide IT services for US companies (a common use of H1B visas)
- The applicants for the H1B visas were forced to pay the visa fees and costs, something that is illegal under H1B visa rules
- Documentation for the visas was falsified, and submitted on behalf of the applicants
- The workers were then brought to the US, but not offered salaries as is required by the visa rules
- They were “benched” between work projects without pay, and when they complained they were told they were simple hourly consultants with no right to income or benefits
- This forced the non-immigrant workers to live in the US with no income and no opportunity to seek other employment
H1B Visas: Buyer Beware
This is not the only case of H1B visa fraud, non-payment of salary or “benching”, and numerous foreign nationals have been taken advantage of in this way. Whether or not one agrees that the H1B visa system is fair, it is a crime to defraud the US government and use the visa system to abuse the rights of foreign nationals simply looking for a job.
If a visa applicant is in their own country looking for a position, it can be difficult to ascertain who are valid sponsors and who might be taking advantage of the program. This is further complicated by the fact that for many IT workers, the perpetrators are also foreign nationals from their own country, so appear to be trustworthy.
Applying for an H1B Visa? Here Are the Red Flags to Watch For
There are some red flags that any H1B visa applicant should be aware of when seeking a sponsor and position in the US, that may indicate fraud:
- The sponsor is a new start up with no previous business history or identifiable product or service
- The ‘sponsor’ supplies the supporting documentation and letters, with no input from the applicant
- The position is listed as a “consultant” rather than a formal position in a company
- The salary includes a large percentage as a “bonus” conditioned on job performance
- The applicant is required to pay a “fee” for the visa which is equal to the amount of the H1B visa fees (now as much as $10,000 per worker)
Any one of these points listed could be an indicator that you will arrive in the US without any guarantee of a salary, and will have a paid a visa fee illegally on behalf of the sponsor.
If you are looking for an H1B visa sponsor and need assistance in locating valid and legal positions that pay a salary and are not subject to fraud, then please contact us so that we can assist you.
- November 29th, 2016