US: H-2B visa fraud unearthed
Washington: Details of massive fraud and abuse of the popular H-2B work visa programme have been made public by a government report, which shows that in one of such cases more than 87 Indian nationals paid at least $20,000 each to enter the US illegally.
"Several recent convictions have shown that some employers and recruiters may be abusing the foreign workers in the programme," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its letter to Congressman George Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labour.
The report details 10 cases of wrongdoings that showed violations in areas such as unfair wages for employees, excessive fees charged to employees, and fraudulent documentation submitted to federal agencies to circumvent programme rules.
"The 10 cases that we reviewed demonstrate fraud and abuse committed by recruiters and employers participating in the H-2B visa programme and operating in 29 states," the report made public on Monday said.
In six of the 10 cases GAO reviewed, there were allegations that employers did not pay their H-2B employees the established hourly wage, overtime, or both.
In six cases, employers charged their H-2B workers fee that was for the benefit of the employer or charged excessive fee that brought employees` wages below the hourly federal minimum wage, the report said.
Also in eight of the 10 cases, employers were alleged to have submitted fraudulent documentation.
The H-2B working visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows foreign nationals to enter into the US temporarily and engage in non-agricultural employment that is seasonal, intermittent, or based on a peak load need.
According to GAO, a company in Louisiana obtained $1.8 million from a fraudulent H-2B visa conspiracy to bring 87 Indian nationals into the United States illegally.
The company submitted fraudulent H-2B documentation to federal agencies allegedly seeking workers from India.
It charged at least $20,000 each for the H-2B visas but never employed the Indians.
The GAO report said representatives of the firm travelled to India to assist the Indians with the application process and corresponded with the US Consulate on behalf of the workers.
These conspirators were indicted on federal criminal charges in 2008.
In 2009, the report said, the construction company owner pled guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced three years` probation and six months home confinement.
In 2009, the other conspirators were found guilty of 1 count of conspiracy, 14 counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration, and one count of money laundering and sentenced to 41 months imprisonment, the report said.
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