New email ID to report H1B abuse - the gloves are off

A new email ID - - is headlining the US Homeland Security watchdog’s homepage and has already had its desired effect on IT body shops who have spent the last decade poring over the US visa forms for gaps via which the lifespan of the H1B visa can be stretched to the limit.

Representational photo. AP

Representational photo. AP

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Premium processing ends, 6 month freeze likely
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The party’s over and it’s playing on Page One of the United States Citizenship and Immigration services website and social handles. It may be pure coincidence but the new rash of moves comes after the H1B visa made it to the iconic CBS 60 Minutes show in March.

It’s not like there was no way to complain earlier - there certainly was and that old page still exists but one centralised email ID was not previously handed on a platter to whistleblowers - it was a complex and typically bureaucratic type of multi layer form which went into a black hole and got an automated reply and at best a follow up that does not allow for closure.

A random sampling of the replies on the USCIS Twitter handle reveal the real deal which all stakeholders understand. Status quo has just suited some folks better and they have been lying low - that is what has changed now. The scrutiny of H1B visas has moved on from being a file-bound blot of ink to possible inspections at on-site premises.

“Increase minimum wage to more than $100k, automatically companies will stop abusing/using it,” says one reply on the USCIS Twitter handle. “American citizens are deprived of promotion, since there fellow #h1b holders need promotions to move their case up to #EB1 level,” says another.

Irrespective of who these people are and how shadowy their public social media profiles may be, these are valid concerns and inputs which are common knowledge in temporary worker circles - the minimum wage hike that will fix many glithces that Americans consider troublesome about the H1B visa and the rough and ready ways to get an EB1, 2 or 3 category label in pursuit of a Green Card.

Despite the jargon that has come to be associated with H1B troubles, the anger that Americans feel is basis some simple “fairness” issues. A USCIS memo explains very neatly the more common examples of H1B fraud:

"The H-1B worker is not or will not be paid the wage certified on the Labor Condition Application (LCA).

There is a wage disparity between H-1B workers and other workers performing the same or similar duties, particularly to the detriment of U.S. workers.

The H-1B worker is not performing the duties specified in the H-1B petition, including when the duties are at a higher level than the position description.

The H-1B worker has less experience than U.S. workers in similar positions in the same company.

The H-1B worker is not working in the intended location as certified on the LCA."

In combination with the USCIS decision to crank up on-site checks, this is by far the tightest set of regulations that have existed for the H1B since it was born in the 1990s, signed into law by a Republican President.

Embedded in the latter half of the memo is an important red flag - are H1B workers being paid while they wait for projects? Sources in the USCIS say they have decided to act on this after a storm of complaints have piled up in the last few years, especially post crash.

The memo clarifies that site inspections are “not meant to target nonimmigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system.”

“We seek to determine if workers are not being paid while in the United States as they wait for projects or work, a practice known as “benching” which violates U.S. immigration laws.”

What the USCIS is seeking to do is actually in the interest of the individual worker and his or her family. It’s the body shops which employ (contract) these H1Bs who are running scared.

Twitter | @byniknat

Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 18:47 PM

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