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More H-1B Workplace Inspections Underway

ComputerWorld magazine reported yesterday that U.S. immigration authorities have ramped up their field inspections for H-1B visa violations. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, told Sen. Chuck Grassley (R, Ia.) that it will conduct some 25,000 inspections of workplaces hiring staff under the H-1B program in the current fiscal year, which began in October.

H-1B visas, which admit non-immigrant skilled workers for a limited number of years, have come under fire recently because of allegations that American companies use the visas to bring in foreign workers, including many engineers and scientists, to avoid hiring higher-salaried American staff. In addition, during the past year evidence has emerged of increasing fraud and abuse of individual visa holders, on which Beryl Benderly has reported for Science Careers. The Science Careers blog has also noted reduced demand for H-1B visas during 2009 and diminishing political support for the program.

Earlier this month, Grassley, a frequent critic of H-1B visas, wrote a letter to USCIS requesting more enforcement of the rules, noting incidents in Iowa where companies brought in foreign workers under the program even though the jobs that the companies identified in their H-1B petitions were no longer available. Grassley also pointed to incidents where companies hired H-1B visa holders then outsourced them to other work sites, another rules violation.

ComputerWorld says that Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS, told Grassley that the inspections will determine “whether the location of employment actually exists and if a beneficiary is employed at the location specified, performing the duties as described, and paid the salary as identified in the petition.” The 25,000 inspections planned for this fiscal year is nearly a five-fold increase over the 5,200 conducted last year.