In a surprising announcement last month, USCIS alleged that several dozen “small technology firms” conspired to commit H-1B registrant fraud.
According to the announcement, these companies worked together to give their candidates a better chance of selection in the annual H-1B visa lottery by registering multiple times. USCIS has stated it is in the process of performing “extensive fraud investigations, denied and revoked petitions accordingly, and is in the process of initiating law enforcement referrals for criminal prosecution.”
If this is the case, the rest of the H-1B application period for FY 2024 may look very different from normal. Here’s what you need to know about the potential fraud and how it could impact your application.
Potential Collusion by Dozens of Companies
Demand for H-1B visas has been rising for years. However, over the past two years, the total number of registrants increased by 252%, from 308,613 for FY 2022 to 482,927 for FY 2023 to 780,884 for FY 2024.
Last year, USCIS assumed the increase was partially in response to the Biden administration’s decision to relax immigration laws that had grown excessively restrictive under the Trump administration. While it instituted some anti-fraud measures, the matter was otherwise left alone. This year, though, it noticed a trend: about 96,000 applicants had more than one registration. In fact, those 96,000 people accounted for 408,891 total “eligible” registrations. In other words, these candidates were registered about four times each, on average. Many people were registered five or more times.
It’s not technically illegal to register a candidate more than once, but their sponsor must have a genuine job offer. Some candidates having two or even three real offers may be reasonable, but the sheer number of multiple registrations triggered USCIS’ alarm bells.
Upon investigation, USCIS identified dozens of companies that appear to have worked together to give their applicants a better chance of selection in the lottery. These companies appear to have sponsored other organizations’ preferred candidates as well, leading to an incredibly inflated number of overall registrants and unfairly harming the chances of people who followed the rules.
USCIS does not make accusations like this baselessly. People registered multiple times by these companies will likely have their applications summarily rejected for fraud. Companies involved in the conspiracy may also face criminal charges.
The Impact of H-1B Visa Application Fraud
Fraud in the H-1B lottery is a serious matter. There are only 85,000 total H-1B visas available each fiscal year. In years previous, the lottery allowed anywhere from one- to two-thirds of eligible registrants to apply for a visa. However, this year’s artificially inflated registrations cut the total percentage of people chosen down to just 14.6%.
This is blatantly unfair to the people and organizations that followed USCIS regulations. It prevents honest companies from hiring hand-picked candidates and benefits those breaking the rules.
To resolve this inequity, USCIS may decide to perform a second H-1B lottery this year. This lottery would likely exclude any fraudulent registrations, potentially dropping the total pool of candidates to just 270,000. This could give registrants another opportunity to apply without unfair competition. If another lottery is held, it will likely occur in July, based on past H-1B seasons.
If you have already been selected to apply, this additional lottery will not impact you. You may still submit your application for approval and receive your visa if you did not participate in the registration fraud.
Approaching the H-1B Visa Process With Integrity
In the future, USCIS will likely keep a much stricter eye on H-1B registrants and sponsor companies to avoid a repeat of this collusion. It is more important than ever to approach the process with integrity to avoid unnecessary Requests for Evidence or denials. You can ensure you are registering and applying in accordance with USCIS rules by working with Litwin & Smith.
Our experienced attorneys have guided companies and their visa candidates through the H-1B application process for decades. We are dedicated to providing every client with skilled support to streamline the process while adhering to all federal and immigration policies. Learn more about how we can assist you with your H-1B application by scheduling your consultation today.