Indian H-1B's Can Learn From DOS Fraud Report

As a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer, I often hear of Indian foreign nationals who suffer unexpectedly long delays in India when they return home for a visit, and then apply for a new H-1B visa in their passport. This has even been happening to H-1B workers who are renewing an H-1B visa, after having already obtained one a few years prior. The U.S. State Department's recently released "India Biannual Fraud Update" report sheds some light on possible reasons as to why some visa applications are taking so long. Although the report is dated October 2009, it discusses fraud trends from certain regions in India, and the steps that "Mission India" takes to combat fraud.

Indians make up the highest number of H and L visa applicants in the world. According to the report, all U.S. Consular posts in India regularly encounter inflated or fabricated educational and employment qualifications for H-1B visa applications. The majority of fraudulent documents come from Hyderabad. Some visa "consultants" specialize in fraudulent experience letters. To verify the legitimacy of an applicant's qualifications when experience is used instead of education, a post's Fraud Prevention Unit will make site visits to companies listed as a prior employer. In other words, an H-1B visa applicant who is using several years of experience to qualify instead of a four-year university degree, should expect to wait for their visa while the U.S. Consulate verifies prior experience.

The report identifies the other areas of highest visa fraud as B1/B2 visitor visas, F-1 student visas, and P-3 culturally unique performing artists visas. B1/B2 visa fraud is the most common, even more than for H-1B's. The fraud is typically based on fraudulent documents, including passport copies of false relatives, bogus financial documents, and affidavits of support. When an applicant admits to submitting a fraudulent document package, the U.S. Consulate conducts extensive text searches to identify additional cases with the same fraudulent details. This is how the U.S. Consulate in New Delhi uncovered an extensive network of fraudulent Lions Club conference attendees.

The report's description of F-1 student visa fraud actually explains how legitimate student applicants are often duped into working with a fraudulent document vendors and present fraudulent bank statements to show the financial resources to study in the U.S. without working. Legitimate students applicants are also often misled by believing they can work full-time and study part-time on an F-1 visa.

Together, the U.S. Consulates in India are amongst the busiest in the world, with over 756,000 nonimmigrant visas issued in FY2008. We know that Mission India issued a lesser number of nonimmigrant visas in FY2009, during the six month period that the report analyzes. During the six month period of the report, Mission India identified 3,083 cases of possible fraud. Just over half of those cases resulted in a finding of confirmed fraud. Even assuming a lesser number of nonimmigrant visas issued during the six month period in FY2009, these numbers mean that the number of confirmed nonimmigrant visa fraud is around 1% or less. The next time an H-1B Indian client calls me from India to inform me that his H-1B visa application is still pending at the U.S. Consulate, I will explain that he is likely being investigated to see if he falls within that 1% of all nonimmigrant visa applications.

Work Visas / by Michelle Gee