A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office exposes the abuse of the H-1B Visa program, a program that offers up to 65,000 three-year visas per year to be issued to highly-skilled foreign workers. The reports found that the majority of the visas go to a small number of companies that simply act as middle-men and offer the workers to larger companies that aren't held accountable for their compliance, or non-compliance, to the program's rules.

The GAO report found that only 1 percent of the total companies that applied for the H-1B Visa received more than one-quarter of the visas issued. The report also estimates that at least 10 of the top 85 companies receiving H-1B visas were staffing companies. Staffing companies received nearly 12,000 of the 65,000 visas, or more than 6% of the total amount.

The issue found by the GAO is that staffing companies are ultimately responsible for H-1B compliance, not the companies that hire the visa holders from the staffing company. Furthermore, the staffing companies are not working with the companies to ensure that they are H-1B compliant.

In order to hire H-1B Visa holders, companies must first make a reasonable effort to hire an American worker and prove that no qualified American worker is available for the job. Second, the company must pay the H-1B Visa holder a wage competitive with American workers holding the same or similar job title. The GAO reports that the wage requirement is the most abused requirement.

H-1B Visas are commonly used by companies in the high-tech industry contracting with the federal government.

To read the entire report, see the GAO's website.

American workers
H-1B visas

Updated: Tue, Jan 18th 2011 @ 8:10am EST