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Visa Fraud Can Harm Foreign Workers

Posted August 11, 2016 - Articles

H-1B visas should provide an opportunity for foreign workers to live temporarily in the United States and make a good living. Unfortunately, some people end up taking advantage of this work visa program.  Anyone who is considering working in the United States on an H-1B visa needs to be aware of the potential risk of fraud and should get help from a Towson immigration law firm in protecting their interests.

Avoiding H-1B Visa Fraud

Dallas News reported on one scheme in which two brothers abused the H-1B visa program to create a low-cost workforce for their computer consulting company.

The brothers ran a consulting company and they applied for H-1B visas, stating on the application that the foreign employees who came to work on the visas would have full time jobs and receive annual salaries. Both of these are requirements in order for the government to grant an H-1B visa.

Instead of employing the foreign workers, the brothers ended up placing those workers at third-party businesses. The workers were paid only for the time that they actually spent working, which is a practice called “benching.”  The brothers charged the companies substantial fees for their consulting service, despite paying workers only for the limited period of time they were actively working. As a result, substantial profits were generated.

The brothers also required that the foreign workers pay for their own visa applications, despite the fact that the government typically requires the sponsoring company to pay the application costs. To try to hide the fact that the foreign workers were being made to pay their own fees, the brothers requested the workers to pay in cash or pay with checks made out to a training center.

For their fraudulent activities the brothers were charged with offenses including wire fraud and harboring illegal aliens. Employees of the consulting company also pled guilty to aiding and abetting visa fraud and were sentenced to probation.  

For operating the fraud scheme, the other brothers were sentenced to seven years of imprisonment.  The brothers were also required to forfeit their $2 million mansion, vessels, vehicles and aircrafts, and all other property gained from operating the scheme. Obviously, the scheme was quite a lucrative one for the brothers, but unfortunately the foreign workers were harmed because they had to pay their own visa fees and they were forced to work for what amounted to very low wages, especially as they were only paid for time working.

Foreign workers who take jobs under the H-1B visa program should make sure they know the signs of fraud, including being paid only on an as-needed basis and being asked to pay their own visa application fee. The best way to avoid fraud and make sure that job opportunities for foreign workers are legitimate is to work with an experienced immigration law firm. An attorney with Miranda & Weisman can help you determine if an H-1B visa is the right option for you and can help you make sure that a company that sponsors your visa is a legitimate one that follows the rules.