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Immigration Services Wants To Deter Fraud In High-Skill Visas


The application period for H1-B visas opened Monday.  The high-skilled worker visa application period opened with an announcement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with an aggressive new posture on detecting fraud.

H1-B visas are specifically for companies to fill high-skill positions they can't find domestically. Monday's announcement likely won't affect most H1-B employers. 

The new guidelines target staffing agencies with additional scrutiny including site visits. Agencies that have a large percentage of H1-B workers and those workers are placed off-site are mentioned specifically.

These firms file thousands or tens of thousands of H1-B applications and then place those employees throughout the country. Many have argued their practices -- while legal--assist large companies in displacing American workers. 

According to Migration Policy Institute's Sarah Pierce this is a new posture for  the agency.

"This is the strongest language I have seen come out of USCIS," says Pierce.

Every April the application period for H1-Bs opens and a deluge occurs. Though only 85,000 H1-B visas exist, triple that could be requested.

San Antonio immigration lawyer Shahid Malik says technology firms like Rackspace, Ernst & Young, and USAA, get international high-skill employees through the visa, and so do research institutions that aren't subject to the visa's cap like Southwest Research Institute.  

"There's a lot of large employers here that take advantage of the H1-B program. For example, universities. The University of Texas at San Antonio use them for their researchers, their professors," says Malik.

The guidelines include new ways to report abuse from U.S. workers who feel they were displaced by H1-B workers. 

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive