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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.

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Photo of Laura Foote Reiff‡ Laura Foote Reiff‡

Laura Foote Reiff is the Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office. She also Co-Chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. Laura focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies,

Laura Foote Reiff is the Co-Managing Shareholder of the Northern Virginia Office. She also Co-Chairs the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s International Employment, Immigration & Workforce Strategies group. Laura focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies, as well as related employment compliance and legislative issues.

Laura advises corporations on a variety of compliance-related issues, particularly related to Form I-9 eligibility employment verification matters. Laura has been involved in audits and internal investigations and has successfully minimized monetary exposure as well as civil and criminal liabilities on behalf of her clients. She develops immigration compliance strategies and programs for both small and large companies. Laura performs I-9, H-1B and H-2B compliance inspections during routine internal reviews, while performing due diligence (in the context of a merger, acquisition or sale) or while defending a company against a government investigation.

Laura represents many businesses in creating, managing and using “Regional Centers” that can create indirect jobs toward the 10 new U.S. jobs whose creation can give rise to EB-5 permanent residence for investment. She coordinates this work with attorneys practicing in securities law compliance, with economists identifying “targeted employment areas” and projecting indirect job creation, and with licensed securities brokers coordinating offerings. She also represents individual investors in obtaining conditional permanent residence and in removing conditions from permanent residence.

Laura’s practice also consists of managing business immigration matters and providing immigration counsel to address the visa and work authorization needs of U.S. and global personnel including professionals, managers and executives, treaty investors/ traders, essential workers, persons of extraordinary ability, corporate trainees, and students. She is an immigration policy advocacy expert and works on immigration reform policies.

Photo of Rebecca B. Schechter ‡ Rebecca B. Schechter ‡

Rebecca Schechter focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance, representing multi-national corporations midsized companies, and startups, as well as individual clients. She has experience with all areas of employment-based immigration, particularly H-1B, L-1, O-1 and E-2 petitions, as well as outstanding researcher…

Rebecca Schechter focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance, representing multi-national corporations midsized companies, and startups, as well as individual clients. She has experience with all areas of employment-based immigration, particularly H-1B, L-1, O-1 and E-2 petitions, as well as outstanding researcher petitions and labor certification applications. Rebecca regularly assists GT clients with global immigration matters, including business and work visas to countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. She also works on state and federal I-9 and E-Verify audits. Rebecca has a thorough understanding of third party contractor issues and experience handling complex naturalization, deportation defense, family and employment-based adjustment applications.

Admitted in Maryland and Connecticut. Not admitted in Virginia. Practice limited to federal immigration practice.