Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

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A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) report made public last week discovered significant evidence of fraud in the H-1B program, which provides visas for “high-skill” non-immigrant alien workers. USCIS found outright fraud or technical violations in 21% of 246 H-1B applications reviewed. As such, thousands of employers may be knowingly violating the program’s rules in an effort to displace American workers with cheaper foreign workers. However, as Professor Norm Matloff notes in a corresponding blog, while the fraud discovered in this study is significant, the loopholes in the H-1B program push its “abuse” rate to nearly 100%.

USCIS staff found evidence of forged documents, fake degrees and shell companies being used in H-1B applications, according to Computerworld magazine. Investigators also found that some employers had H-1B holders doing different jobs than the ones that were listed on their H-1B applications or were not paying prevailing wages.

The report was released last week by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who subsequently sent USCIS a letter demanding program reforms and questioning whether the employers responsible would be prosecuted. A related news release quotes Sen. Grassley as saying, “The results of this report validate exactly what I’ve been fearful of-some employers are bringing H-1B visa holders into our country with complete disregard for the law. More needs to be done to ensure the American worker is our first priority. The system is obviously broken when an H-1B visa holder is working at a laundromat rather than in high-skilled industries. The fraud and abuse outlined in this report shows that it’s time to put some needed reform in place.”

In response to the report, USCIS is considering a series of reforms to the H-1B program that will increase scrutiny of visa petitions, such as the use of independent open-source data to gather information on visa seekers and their petitioning companies. USCIS is also considering the use of additional fraud indicators and evidentiary requirements in the application process.

However, as Professor Matloff notes in his blog, employers can adjust to such reforms without diminishing their ability to secure foreign-over-American labor because the changes will not address the underlying loopholes in the H-1B program. Only the fundamental revisions contained in legislation (S. 1035) proposed by Sens. Grassley and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) will truly stem fraud and abuse in the H-1B program, assuming they are not watered down in the legislative process.

Click here to read the related Computerworld article.
Legal Immigration
High-Tech Worker Visas
H-1B visas

Updated: Wed, Oct 15th 2008 @ 5:43pm EDT