Potential Changes Not Enough

By Kevin Fogarty  |  Posted 2008-11-07 Print this article Print


None of the potential changes are such that they could fix even the majority of problems with the H-1B application process, according to Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology and co-author of "Outsourcing America."

"They get $500 per H-1B application for anti-fraud, and 85,000 applications-that gives them $42 million to play with, year after year," Hira said. "I can't imagine they're doing much with it considering they just reported that 20 percent of the visas were given under false pretenses."

The wish to use "open-source" data to confirm an applicant's identity or other information sounds odd, but may refer to the legal and procedural roadblocks that prevent the USCIS and the Department of Labor from sharing data. The General Accountability Office published a report in 2006 criticizing the lack of communication.

Before an H-1B petition can be considered by the USCIS, the applicant has to go through the Department of Labor to certify the type of job that will be covered and the type of qualifications the worker has to have, where the job will be located, how much it will pay, how many workers are involved, and other criteria.

Some but not all of that data is available to the USCIS when it is approving the petition. Among the information it can't get is information on how much a particular worker is actually paid. One of the most common complaints received about H-1B visas is about companies that pay an H-1B worker less than they'd promised.

"It's good that the USCIS is making some changes," Deasy said. "There is a fund that used to be used for fraud detection and prevention; we support that.  We don't interpret the report as a cause for huge alarm or concern, but as a way to identify weaknesses and where steps can be taken to shore up any weaknesses."

"I'd call it a tiny step in the right direction," Hira said. "It shows that the whole process is riddled with problems, but a lot of the problems are legal issues, how the program is set up and what the rules are, not just the kinds of fraud and procedural errors in that report."



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