Significant Level of Fraud in H-1B Visas

A recent government study has found a significant level of fraud in H-1B visa petitions:

A report released Oct. 8 by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) reveals that 13% of petitions filed for H-1B visas on behalf of employers are fraudulent. Another 7% contain some sort of technical violations.

The study, released to members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, marks the first time the agency, part of the Homeland Security Dept., has documented systematic problems with the controversial program. Technology companies, in particular, have come to rely on the H-1B visa program to bring in skilled foreign workers to fill jobs that employers claim can’t be filled with U.S. candidates. Tech companies like Oracle (ORCL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google (GOOG) have pushed to get more visas, claiming that a shortage of skilled workers is hampering U.S. competitiveness. Microsoft Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates has twice testified in front of Congress on the issue.

Critics say H-1Bs help U.S. companies replace American workers with less costly foreign workers. “The report makes it clear that the H-1B program is rife with abuse and misuse,” says Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “It shows the desperate need for an auditing system.” However, both Presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), have said they support expanding the program.

There are a number of possible problems with the study the most important being its small size. However, there are more than 120,000 H-1B visas issued annually and if the 20% plus number holds up for the entire population it would be a substantial problem. When the number of tech jobs is expanding, as they were during the late 1990’s, it’s one thing but when the number of tech jobs is nearly flat it’s another matter altogether. For several years five or six years ago according to the IEEE the number of new electrical engineering jobs in the U. S. was roughly equal to the number of H-1B visas issued for electrical engineers.

I have no problem with companies going abroad to get the help they need but I do think that proving that they actually can’t find people with the skills they want here should be a little more rigorous. I’ve made the suggestion before: there should be a central clearing house where those petitioning for H-1B visas should be required to advertise the positions.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Rick DeMent says:

    I’ve made the suggestion before: there should be a central clearing house where those petitioning for H-1B visas should be required to advertise the positions.


    In a system where companies sincerely want to find domestic labor, there would be no need for this. The fact is companies simply don’t want to hire skilled American workers because they demand a market wage. As a tech worker on both sides of the hiring table I have seen how this works up close.

    US worker, highly trained in networking or development, want a wage that is commensurate with that training. Foreign workers get that training subsidized and are used to a much lower standard of living. Firms find a foreign worker they what to hire, figure out all the of the skills and technologies that one workers has training and or experience in and that becomes the job posting.

    The likelihood that will find a candidate that has that precise resume is remote at best. Even if they do they can often find any number of other factors that will disqualify the domestic worker.

    I was looking for a job about two years ago and had a resume that matched a posting to the letter. I had an inside contact at the company, although not in that hiring department. I was turned down because the H1b worker they decided to hire had a computer science degree and I didn’t (although I had much more experience in some of the technologies they were looking for). Oh did I mention the H1b worker was offered a salary about 60% of what I would have been offered).

    It’s not only easy to cheat the system but profitable for a number of reasons. In this case your clearing house would not solve the problem because they could simply add more “requirements” on the the posting to make it sound like the domestic worker is not suitable. The list of things they what IT people to know for the most routine jobs these days insures that no one will fit the bill other then the pre-screed and selected foreign worker(with their subsidized higher education and a whole host of government sponsored goodies).

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Additionally, it’s my understanding that there are now schools in India and the Philippines that are producing graduates to spec.