Trump administration cracks down H-1B visa abuse

The Trump administration is cracking down on companies that get visas for foreign workers and farm them out to employ...

Posted: Feb 23, 2018 7:56 PM
Updated: Feb 23, 2018 7:56 PM

The Trump administration is cracking down on companies that get visas for foreign workers and farm them out to employers.

Some staffing agencies seek hard-to-get H-1B visas for high-skilled workers, only to contract them out to other companies. There's nothing inherently illegal about contracting out visa recipients, but the workers are supposed to maintain a relationship with their employers, among other requirements.

In some cases, outsourcing firms flood the system with applicants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency said in a new policy memo released Thursday it will require more information about H-1B workers' employment to ensure the workers are doing what they were hired for.

Companies will have to provide specific work assignments, including dates and locations, to verify the "employer-employee" relationship between the company applying for an H-1B and its visa recipient.

H-1B visas are valid for three years and can be renewed for another three years. It is a visa that is near and dear to the tech community, with many engineers vying for one of the program's 85,000 visas each year. (20,000 of that quota are reserved for advanced degree holders.) Demand for the visa often exceeds the supply -- in that case, a lottery system is activated.

"Since there is a limited number of H-1B visas it is important that those visa workers go where they are legitimately needed," attorney Sara Blackwell told CNN. Blackwell advocates for American workers replaced by foreigner visa holders.

The government's crackdown is in line with Trump's direction to federal agencies to implement a "Buy American, Hire American" strategy. The administration proposed new rules and guidance for preventing fraud and abuse of work visas -- particularly the H-1B program.

The USCIS says it may limit the length of the visa to shorter than three years based the information an employer provides. For example, if an employer can't prove the H-1B holder is "more likely than not" needed for the full three years, the government might issue the visa for fewer than three years.

The memo also says the administration wants to prevent employee "benching." That's when firms bring on H-1B visa holders but don't give them work and don't pay them the required wages while they wait for jobs. Most projects don't need foreign workers for the full term, according to Monty Hamilton, CEO of IT contractor Rural Sourcing.

Although most agree that some employers abuse H-1B visas, how pervasive the abuse -- and how to prevent it -- remains a sensitive and divisive issue.

Robert Cormier, a retired criminal investigator for federal law enforcement, says that asking for more information from third party companies could help the government crack down on bad actors. The threat of prosecution if companies are caught lying could be enough to deter fraud.

"That could change the game completely," he told CNN.

Others say it could have an unintended consequence: Hurting those who are using the H-1B properly, according to Betsy Lawrence, the American Immigration Lawyers Association's director of government relations.

Immigration attorney Tahmina Watson said the government has already been much stricter about H-1B enforcement since Trump took office.

"Much of what is said in the memo has been carried out in the last 12 months leading to record number of denials," Watson said.

Indian outsourcing firms will be the hardest hit. Indian workers receive more than 70% of all H-1B visas.

Companies and immigration lawyers are preparing for the new H-1B lottery season. Applications must be filed on April 1st.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540083

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798481529
Mobile41283809
Madison35157506
Tuscaloosa25925455
Shelby25302249
Montgomery24723593
Baldwin21411310
Lee15993172
Calhoun14574319
Morgan14425280
Etowah13925353
Marshall12280225
Houston10648282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10070151
St. Clair9948245
Cullman9768194
Lauderdale9460243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8341176
Walker7261278
Autauga7005108
Jackson6840112
Blount6773139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5581118
Dale4877113
Russell445738
Chilton4373113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394877
Chambers3596123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303098
Winston275873
Bibb264764
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219169
Fayette212862
Henry189943
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178141
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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