In April, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced multiple measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse. USCIS has begun taking a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the worksites of H-1B employees. According to a press release, USCIS will focus on:
- Cases where USCIS cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data.
- H-1B-dependent employers (those who have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to U.S. workers, as defined by statute).
- Employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location.
The targeted visits will allow USCIS to focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B program may be more likely to occur and determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers. USCIS will continue random and unannounced visits nationwide. These site visits are not meant to target nonimmigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system. Employers who abuse the H-1B visa program negatively affect U.S. workers, decreasing wages and job opportunities as they import more foreign workers. To further deter and detect abuse, USCIS has established the email address:
to allow individuals (including both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) to submit tips, alleged violations and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse. Information submitted to the email address will be used for investigations and referrals to law enforcement agencies for potential prosecution.
The H-1B visa program is designed to help U.S. companies recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country
- The H-1B is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Jobs in fields such as mathematics, engineering, and technology often qualify. Typically, the initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years.
- Before the employer can file a petition with USCIS, the employer must take steps to ensure that hiring the foreign worker will not harm U.S. workers. First, employers must attest, on a labor condition application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), that employment of the H-1B worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Employers must also provide existing workers with notice of their intention to hire an H-1B worker.
- Since the category was created in 1990, Congress has limited the number of H-1Bs made available each year. The current annual statutory cap is 65,000 visas, with 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. institution of higher learning. In recent years, the limit has been reached only a few days after the petition submission period began.
ANNUAL CAP ON H-1B VISAS
EXISTING H-1B FRAUD MEASURES
Since 2009, USCIS has conducted random administrative site visits to ensure that employers and foreign workers are complying with requirements of the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. USCIS refers many cases of suspected fraud or abuse to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for further investigation.
Citation: Putting American Workers First: USCIS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse: Agency Creates Avenue for American Workers to Report Abuse, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, April 2017.