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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: 473413

Reported Deaths: 9214
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32339474
Hinds30703575
DeSoto29814346
Jackson23263336
Rankin21111358
Lee14600217
Madison14043265
Jones13165218
Forrest12953233
Lauderdale11418297
Lowndes10249175
Lamar10048128
Pearl River8737209
Lafayette8078136
Hancock7324111
Washington6837147
Oktibbeha6820118
Neshoba6404201
Monroe6372158
Warren6326161
Pontotoc610393
Panola6071124
Bolivar6016143
Marshall5972118
Union564086
Pike5491133
Lincoln5232130
Alcorn520888
George457868
Scott451993
Leflore4401140
Prentiss437276
Itawamba436198
Tippah436180
Simpson4268111
Copiah425586
Wayne424863
Tate4234100
Adams4219114
Yazoo415886
Sunflower4088104
Covington407391
Marion4032100
Leake393185
Coahoma388198
Newton364474
Grenada3517101
Stone345657
Tishomingo324888
Attala321185
Jasper310262
Winston300391
Clay288273
Chickasaw282164
Clarke277487
Calhoun259739
Holmes259485
Smith243947
Yalobusha216747
Tallahatchie215649
Walthall205557
Greene204045
Lawrence203831
Perry196453
Amite193751
Webster191941
Noxubee174538
Montgomery169853
Jefferson Davis165541
Carroll159937
Tunica148434
Benton139433
Kemper137439
Claiborne125634
Choctaw124925
Humphreys123337
Franklin115227
Quitman101825
Wilkinson99835
Jefferson86632
Sharkey62120
Issaquena1916
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768301

Reported Deaths: 13209
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1093481727
Mobile699891179
Madison48418589
Baldwin35707452
Shelby35193291
Tuscaloosa33029512
Montgomery32582664
Lee21908204
Calhoun20140377
Morgan19351318
Etowah18583433
Marshall17272259
Houston16139353
St. Clair14956276
Limestone14129180
Cullman14069235
Elmore14010245
Lauderdale13128272
Talladega12399215
DeKalb11890229
Walker10231312
Autauga9493127
Blount9418149
Jackson9115136
Coffee8646161
Colbert8324169
Dale8284159
Escambia6456106
Tallapoosa6394168
Covington6313157
Chilton6243133
Russell591654
Franklin563597
Chambers5240132
Marion4628115
Dallas4626178
Clarke451471
Pike450091
Geneva4252106
Winston407987
Lawrence4046102
Bibb396177
Barbour338968
Marengo320981
Monroe311547
Butler309783
Pickens298769
Randolph294055
Henry293856
Hale286081
Cherokee279850
Fayette272271
Washington243545
Crenshaw232265
Clay221561
Macon214454
Cleburne209748
Lamar187839
Conecuh177139
Lowndes169056
Coosa163631
Wilcox154335
Bullock147142
Perry134235
Sumter123335
Greene119241
Choctaw72325
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