H-1B Visa Program in Federal Agencies’ Crosshairs
In early April, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced plans to tighten oversight of the H-1B visa program.
The program, which allows employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations, authorizes the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the U.S.
The DOL says that in recent years, some employers have used the H-1B program to hire foreign workers despite American workers being qualified and available for work or even to replace American workers.
The agency announced that it fully supports the U.S. Department of Justice in cautioning employers who petition for H-1B visas not to discriminate against U.S. workers, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.
Actions Being Taken
The DOL says it will protect American workers against discrimination through the following actions:
- Rigorously use all of its existing authority to initiate investigations of H-1B program violators. This effort to protect U.S. workers will also involve greater coordination with other federal agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security and Justice for additional investigation and, if necessary, prosecution.
- Consider changes to the Labor Condition Application for future application cycles. The Labor Condition Application, which is a required part of the H-1B visa application process, may be updated to provide greater transparency for agency personnel, U.S. workers, and the general public.
- Continue to engage stakeholders on how the program might be improved to provide greater protections for U.S. workers, under existing authorities or through legislative changes.
To further deter and detect abuse, the USCIS has established an email address to allow individuals to submit tips, alleged violations, and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse.
On April 3, the USCIS announced will take a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the worksites of H-1B employees. The agency 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
Targeted site 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.
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