While the Trump Administration is busy responding to issues on various fronts, Congress has not slowed down its inquiry into the H1B visa program. This presumably stems from the bills currently under consideration that would amend the H1B program, and is an attempt to learn exactly what the USCIS is doing currently to prevent fraud or abuse.
It is also a way to shed light on the activities of companies that have abused the program to hire cheaper foreign labor. The pressure is not off of the H1B visa program, and more reforms are sure to follow.
One Senator Inquires on USCIS Procedures
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent the latest letter in May to the USCIS, with the following specific questions (the responses provided by the Department of Homeland Security are summarized):
- Has an investigation into the companies highlighted in “60 Minutes” been initiated?
The USCIS has several open investigations into the following companies (which have been accused of program abuse):
- Northeast Utilities
- University of California, San Francisco
- The outsourcing firms providing the foreign workers
The investigations include reviewing information in previously filed petitions, conducting site visits and looking for instances of program abuse.
- Has a review of your policies and procedures under the H1B program that allows for this kind of abuse been initiated?
Yes. The steps listed include:
- The formation of a USCIS working group specifically focused on H1B visas
- Coordination with other departments and agencies
- Review of policies and plans to publish an updated H1B guidance section
- Development of initiatives to combat fraud and abuse
- What steps are you taking, in conjunction with the President and the White House…to fix the worst abuses in the H1B visa program?
- Proposing new rules and issuing new guidance consistent with President Trump’s executive orders
- The new rules will supersede or revise previous rules to protect interests of US workers
- 10,000 unannounced site visits in 2016 to verify visa petition information
- In 2017, a new more targeted site visit initiative to uncover fraud and abuse
- Establishing an email address for both US and foreign workers to report suspected H1B visa abuse, submit tips and allege violations
- What tools do you need from Congress to better ensure that the H1B program is used…for access to foreign workers, when and only when, there are insufficient American works to fill those jobs?
- The Department of Homeland Security needs increased oversight and authority to deter and prosecute H1B visa fraud
- We are working to send a set of legislative reforms to the Judiciary Committee to improve the program
- We will continue to offer recommendations to protect disadvantaged US workers
What Exactly Does All of This Mean?
While the responses are fairly vague and steeped in bureaucratic language, it is telling that the federal agencies overseeing the H1B program are using all of their administrative power to crack down on abuses. The establishment of a ‘tip’ email address sounds like the “See Something, Say Something” policy of DOHS to combat terrorism, and could give to rise to false allegations, or simply US workers trying to undermine their foreign counterparts.
Any new legislation affecting the H1B visa program will surely increase the authority of DOHS and USCIS to enforce program rules, and H1B visa holders and applicants should be aware of this fact. Having full and current documentation of the information in the petition will be essential, and failure to provide it could result in denial or revocation of the worker’s visa.
- July 30th, 2017