By Rahul Reddy & Emily Neumann, Attorneys at Law
In FY 2017, USCIS received 233,000 H-1B petitions, but there were only 85,000 visas granted (approximately, with minor exceptions). So, how did they decide who would receive a visa? By lottery.
All petitions filed on behalf of individuals with U.S. Master’s degrees went through a lottery system first to select the 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption. Any Masters cases not selected went into the regular quota. A second lottery was then done to select the remaining 65,000.
Due to the way the lottery is conducted, Masters Applicants generally have a better chance since they get two shots at the lottery. Many applicants, however, were hoping to improve their chances even more by obtaining job offers from more than one company and filing multiple H-1B petitions. While many applicants may have legitimately had multiple job offers, many others did not, but filed regardless. Some applicants thought they had legitimate job offers, others knew they did not, but were under so much pressure to make it through the lottery that they went ahead with it.
Perhaps people have short memories, or just aren’t aware of the arrests that occurred in previous years for H-1B visa fraud. Before you are tempted to do something illegal to increase your chances, understand that that the risks certainly outweigh any potential benefits.
No longer is The Federal Government going solely after fraudulent employers, they are also addressing the demand for these employers and schemes set forth by the applicants themselves. Applicants are expected to know their responsibilities when they contact employers. Be wary of any employer who promises they can work around restrictions. Ignorance of the law, or unknowingly paying into a fraudulent scheme does NOT excuse you from potentially being charged with a federal crime holding a penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
What lessons can we learn from previous lottery years?
• Multiple employers should not file H-1B petitions for the same person if offering work on the same project (and using an “in-house” project on a second filing does not avoid negative consequences either)
• Employees should be extremely cautious if there is potential for multiple filings on their behalf
• Be on the lookout for fraudulent end clients issuing letters when the business does not really exist
• Sometimes the same fraudulent end client might issue letters for multiple companies
• Fraudulent end clients may issue hundreds of letters
• Be careful of “in-house projects” or companies who will “find a project later”
• Don’t pay someone to file your H-1B petition
• Don’t take someone’s word for it – confirm all the facts!
Do not forget that Federal Agents themselves can pretend to be employers and offer you to file a fraudulent H-1B to entrap you, as was done with the sting operation of the University of Northern New Jersey.
Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Our experienced team of immigration lawyers in Houston & Dallas advises clients throughout the H-1B visa application process, including responding to various requests for evidence and consular processing issues. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.