Are authorities searching for abuses in the H-1B visa program?

A recent statement from the Justice Department suggests that federal officials are poised to prosecute abuses of the H-1B visa program.

The H-1B visa allows businesses to hire skilled foreign workers. This year, 85,000 new visas will be issued under the program. Yet the definition of what constitutes skilled labor may be changing. A recent memo from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services stated that computer programmers should not qualify unless they also hold a related bachelor’s degree.

In addition, the Trump administration has stated that it does not want the H-1B visa program to take jobs away from American workers. Specifically, the Justice Department warned that it would vigorously prosecute any abuses in the H-1B program. The warning also referenced the Immigration and Nationality Act, a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against US citizens in their hiring practices.

The Justice Department is not the only agency that will be giving increased scrutiny to the program. According to a statement from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, more resources will be devoted to investigations of companies with suspicious hiring practices involving H-1B workers. In fact, USCIS expressly stated that it would be looking for companies with a high ratio of H-1B workers compared to US citizens. In addition, the agency will be giving more attention to outsourcing companies that typically employ many H-1B workers.

Our immigration law firm has helped many immigrants protect their rights in the workplace. If the new administration is giving closer scrutiny to the H-1B visa program, we recommend that employers consult with an attorney to ensure they have complied with all applicable procedures.

Source: Boston Globe, “H-1B visas targeted by Trump administration,” Hiawatha Bray, April 4, 2017