Today, The Wall Street Journal, featured a cover article reporting the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State will fine India’s second largest outsourcing company for illegal use of United States visas. Specifically, the government is expected to announce the $35 million fine on Wednesday, October 30th. This will be the largest ever fine for immigration law violations and represents that the government will not tolerate misapplication of the B-1 visa in lieu of the H-1B visa.
The government investigation uncovered rampant misuse of U.S. visas, finding the Indian IT staffing company used easy-to-obtain and inexpensive B-1 visas, meant for temporary business visitors, instead of the H-1B visa, meant for long-term professional jobs in the United States. Specifically, the investigation yielded evidence that the Indian tech giant systematically prepared false documentation indicating that workers were coming to the United States for meetings when in fact they were coming here to work long-term technology contracts.
The H-1B visa is heavily relied upon by the IT industry as a means to bring skilled software developers, programmers, and analysts to the United States. The U.S. issues 65,000 H-1B visas per year, and demand exceeded supply for the 2013-2014 USCIS fiscal year. Sponsoring an individual for an H-1B visa requires employers to go through a multi-step process involving both the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which can take weeks and even months if the employer does not utilize premium processing. The H-1B visa process is intended to safeguard U.S. jobs. By comparison, there is no cap on B-1 visas which are easily obtained in a matter of days, in an application process that does not involve the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Department of Homeland Security’s investigation and the subsequent penalties should alert employers that the government is serious about vetting visa fraud and enforcing the immigration laws. Companies should consult with immigration counsel to determine they are utilizing the appropriate visa classification for foreign workers, and ensure proper use of the B-1 and H-1B visa categories.
The settlement is expected to be announced on Wednesday, according to a media advisory issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas. For additional information on the H-1B or B-1 visa classifications, please contact your GT Attorney.