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.