USCIS Announces Possible Revisions to H-1B Program

October 12th, 2008

USCIS has announced possible revisions to the H-1B visa in light of its published report documenting fraud and technical violations in the H-1B visa arena.  Such measures could include the use of “independent open-source data” to obtain information about visa seekers or the companies that file the petitions on their behalf.

Another option that USCIS is considering is a risk assessment program for applications “based on objective criteria relating to fraud indicators,” according to a USCIS spokesman, which would lead to greater scrutiny of H-1B petitions during the review process.  In addition, USCIS may modify the H-1B “evidentiary requirements” and revising the forms that employers use when filing applications, according to the USCIS spokesman.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), an ardent critic of the H-1B visa, publicly released the report on October 8th.  He quoted the report as demonstrating that 21% of 246 H-1B applications reviewed by USCIS staffers contained either outright fraud or “technical violations” of federal laws and regulations.

Greater scrutiny should be given to this report and its methodology.  The H-1B visa is a desperately needed visa to allow foreign professionals to work in the US and help the US maintain its global competitiveness.  Companies like Microsoft have been forced offshore because they cannot hire the technical professionals they need in the US.  This report should not be relied upon as a justification to restrict the H-1B visa program.  In fact, the cap should be eliminated and the current H-1B dependent provisions in the regulations, which require US workers with a large number of H-1B workers to conduct recruitment and not layoff US workers in certain situations, would protect US workers.  Fraud should continue to be investigated and deterred, but not at the expense of credible companies with genuine positions.