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Sunday, July 21, 2024

U.S. officials investigate rampant H-1B visa scams in Silicon Valley

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As obtaining H-1B visas for employees becomes increasingly difficult, some companies have been caught colluding to submit multiple applications for the same person to increase their chances of getting the temporary work visa.

Federal investigators recently uncovered evidence of this practice and plan to charge the companies and employers with visa fraud upon completion of their investigation. They are also investigating and revoking visas for applicants who have already been granted visas through these companies.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), dozens of small tech companies in Silicon Valley colluded with more than 100 visa consulting firms in a visa application scam to help their employees get H-1B visas.

Employers paid visa consulting firms between $2,500 and $5,000 per employee to file fraudulent applications for their employees, and visa consulting firms allegedly filed multiple applications under the same applicant’s name to increase their chances of obtaining visas.

More than 120 visa consulting firms have been identified as participating in application fraud, and federal authorities are expanding their investigation to include visa fraud.

The investigation began when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) identified data showing the same employer name and applicant name repeatedly. According to USCIS, a recent spike in H-1B applications prompted the agency to launch its own investigation and uncover the fraudulent activity.

“Our investigation revealed tens of thousands of cases with more than one employment application,” said a USCIS official. “We launched an investigation because we believed the scam was intended to artificially increase employees’ chances of obtaining an H-1B visa.”

The number of H-1B visas available annually is capped at 85,000. Nevertheless, the applications for the visa rose to 274,237 in 2020, 301,047 in 2021, and 483,927 last year. This year, however, the number of applications for next year’s visas has nearly doubled to 781,000.

According to USCIS, the number of applicants who filed more than once increased from 90,000 in 2021 to 408,891 this year, up from 165,180 last year.

As a result, USCIS has begun the process of identifying duplicate applications from last year and this year and revoking the issued visas.

Kim, a 25-year-old international student employed at a beauty salon in San Francisco, said, “I applied for an H-1B visa last year and again this year while working as an OPT student after graduation, but I was rejected. Honestly, I didn’t expect to be rejected so many times in a row, so I am disconcerted. International students like me are the victims of these visa frauds.”

Korean immigration law experts said, “Tech companies that need a stable supply of employees are stressed because employees who fail to land their H-1B visa lottery are returning to their home countries. Recently, the H-1B application process has gotten a lot tougher, and it seems that obtaining a visa will increasingly become more difficult.”

BY NICOLE CHANG [support@koreadaily.com]