March 25, 2019
The head of an illegal visa scheme has finally been sentenced. Anjaneyulu Katam, who was accused by the US Department of Justice of manipulating the H-1B visa program to help Indian nationals illegally enter the US, was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to forfeit $1.1 million in assets.
The government alleged that Katam ran a “IT Staffing Company” that had filed falsified visa applications in exchanged for payment and forced applicants to pay their own visa fees. The H-1B visa, which is intended to fill shortages of skilled laborers, has been under criticism for the ability to shift many IT jobs to foreign nationals.
Katam is not the only person to face charges due to visa fraud. Recently, several sting operations have been run against fake universities who were helping foreign nationals gain entry under false student visas. Additionally, others have faced similar charges for running fake IT staffing firms, an issue that is becoming more prominent with the rise in virtual workplaces.
It is important for potential applicants and employers to stick with the legal visa process and obtain appropriate legal counsel. With the recent USCIS announcement that employers face the potential for permanent bans from hiring foreign workers, the need for legal compliance is at an all-time high.
March 22, 2019
Last month, the Department of Labor released a memo outlining new interpretations to regulations around hiring foreign workers, such as those workers on the H-1B visa. In short, the memo states that those companies that do not comply fully with requests for evidence may be barred from using any foreign workers at all.
Much of the substance of the memo deals specifically with compliance to new electronic document requests. Namely, that much of the visa process is now online. For some companies or workers, using an electronic only process will be very difficult to navigate. For others, it might increase risk of failure to comply. For companies that rely heavily on foreign workers, even one instance of mismanagement can put their larger workforce at risk.
In light of these changing rules, regulations, and means of processing, it is important for employers to seek legal counsel to ensure that all of their documents are appropriately handled. Qualified legal professionals can not only help with the documentation but can also help protect the organization from the greater consequences in the event of a mistake or miscommunication.
March 18, 2019
As a result of many visa processing changes announced by the USCIS earlier this week, many applicants and employers are left scrambling to ensure that everything is revised in time for the April 1st start date. Notably, changes made to the processing of premium applications have caused a large amount of chaos for many who are filing applications, as the changes have disrupted timelines, application information, and even billing and fee cycles. Premium processing of applications, which is notably more expensive, traditionally guarantees a response within 15 days. However, the USCIS announced that they would not even begin the processing of applications until May 20th at the latest, creating a significant amount of uncertainty for visa applicants.
Reports from Forbes and NBCNews have given examples of the impacts, which range from law firms forced to re-examine hundreds of pre-planned applications, to more notably foreign students in the US attempting to transfer to visas that allow them to work here after graduation. More changes to regulations might even impact or prohibit spouses of H-1B workers from entering the US with them, which would be devastating to many families.
The visa process can be very turbulent time for both applicants and employers. With the potential for dramatic changes and ever-shifting laws, it is important for applicants to seek qualified legal representation to help them understand the process and protect themselves.
March 15, 2019
The USCIS has announced the starting dates for H-1B applications for fiscal year 2020. Applications will be accepted starting on April 1, 2019 and will be subject to any 2020 caps on the total number of visas approved. The USCIS also announced a number of changes, including changes to the visa selection process, changes to the processing of premium visa requests, and even a new H-1B employer data hub for the 2020 visa season.
Immigration services in the US are still actively trying to adapt to changes mandated by the Trump Administration, which is pushing for companies to hire American and limit the number of foreign workers who enter the US. Many of the changes during the last visa cycle lead to a large number of applications rejected for administrative reasons and caused concerns about discrimination and improper filing. Immigration laws can and do change every year, as do the processes involved. It is important to work with qualified legal help when attempting to gain approval to live and work in the United States.
March 11, 2019
A lawsuit filed against Apple and Infosys has been dismissed by US courts. The lawsuit alleged that Apple illegally conspired to abuse the US visa system to replace US workers with cheaper, outsourced labor from India. It was claimed that Apple was illegally attempting to get workers into the US on the cheaper B-1 Visa instead of the more expensive H-1B visas.
The lawsuit, filed by a whistleblower on the scheme and an independent contractor, was ultimately dismissed after the courts found that Apple’s use of the visa system was appropriate.
Companies using foreign workers should remain cautious and vigilant of scams, however, particularly in the wake of multiple sting operations against visa fraud and higher rates of denial for many firms, particularly foreign companies in the IT sector. For both companies wanting to hire foreign workers and for foreign workers seeking entry into the United States, it is important to maintain qualified legal counsel to ensure that all legal requirements are maintained throughout the visa process.
March 8, 2019
A bipartisan group of senators, lead by Sen. Angus King and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, are attempting to raise the cap for certain work visas. Recent changes by the Trump Administration has caused fewer H-1B and other work visas to be approved, and many companies, particularly IT companies, are feeling the impact of this. With domestic unemployment hitting historic lows, the need for skilled foreign workers is growing. Maine in particular needs skilled workers to help with their tourism-based economy, hence the sense of urgency from the Senators to raise the cap.
This comes at a time when several IT firms are suing the Immigration agencies for discrimination, claiming that the current administration is actively attempting to prevent legal immigration and treating some foreign based IT firms unfairly in the lottery process, with claims that the government is actively looking or reasons to deny visa applications.
由缅因州参议院安格斯和柯林斯领导的一群参议员正试图提高某些工作签证的限额。 川普政府最近的政策变化导致H-1B和其他工作签证申请的通过数量减少，许多公司，尤其是科技领域的中小型企业，都受到了影响。 随着美国本土的失业率达到历史新低，对于外国技术人才的需求与日俱增。以旅游业为基础的缅因州尤其需要外国技术人才的帮助。因此参议院们急切地想要提高工作签证的限额。
March 4, 2019
A recent piece by Bloomberg law suggests that H-1B workers entering the US, particularly in the IT sector, are potentially being exploited by consulting firms. The piece, founded mostly on anonymous sources to protect workers from retaliation, claims that some H-1B immigrants are being forced to work 80 hours (twice the standard work week) for no additional overtime pay, and are also functionally unable to take sick days or vacation days.
This comes at a time when IT companies are facing a major crunch, as several lawsuits have recently been filed claiming that the current US administration is attempting to prevent the flow of skilled immigrants from entering the US, particularly in the IT consulting industry.
Workers who enter the US on an H-1B visa are required to have the same working conditions as US workers. Companies involved in these allegations have denied wrongdoing.
It is important for those attempting to enter the US on a visa, or those already working on a visa, to have qualified legal counsel to help ensure the optimal transition to living and working the United States. It is especially important to ensure that the companies offering positions are vetted, particularly with recent sting operations targeting fraudulent recruiters and visa advisors.