Feds find high level of fraud in H-1B petitions

A recent review of 246 H-1B visa applications by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) found that 21% contained fraudulent information or "technical violations" of federal laws and regulations.

The violation rate was even higher in cases involving computer professionals. Twenty-eight of the 104 that were examined, or 27%, had violations of some sort, according to a USCIS report that was finalized in September and publicly released last week by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

USCIS investigators examined a random sample of the nearly 97,000 H-1B petitions filed in late 2005 and early 2006. They found problems such as forged signatures, fake degrees and the use of shell companies in applications. Other issues were discovered during visits to work sites. For instance, some employers "benched" H-1B holders when work wasn't available or had them doing jobs that weren't listed on their visa applications, the report said.

The report's authors called the level of fraud a "significant vulnerability" for the H-1B program and wrote that the USCIS is making "procedural changes" in response to the findings. An agency spokesman said Friday that possible steps include checking applications against external records and using fraud indicators to flag petitions for increased scrutiny.

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld 's print edition.

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