Since the US Citizenship and Immigration Services released last month the figures for H-1B visa registrations for the financial year 2024, the excitement about being selected in the lottery has diminished for many Indian techies and students. It may be because of the steps that USCIS has taken to curb visa fraud.
In the H-1B lottery process, serious concerns have been raised about applicants submitting multiple applications on behalf of the same beneficiary to gain an unfair advantage.
“We remain committed to deterring and preventing abuse of the registration process, and to ensuring only those who follow the law are eligible to file an H-1B cap petition,” the USCIS announcement said.
A number of Indians who have been allotted H-1B visas through the lottery are concerned that USCIS will scrutinize petitions filed by candidates who have registered for H-1B visas multiple times through multiple consultants and companies with greater scrutiny.
The USCIS has issued a warning that the petition may be refused or cancelled if it determines that an attestation was not genuine and correct, the registration was not properly filed, and the prospective petitioner was ineligible to file a petition based on that registration.
Additionally, USCIS has the authority to send the person or organisation that filed a fraudulent attestation to the relevant federal law enforcement agency for additional investigation and action.
“Quantifying the level of scrutiny to be applied by USCIS in reviewing multiple registrations for the same foreign national worker through different companies is virtually an impossible task, but seeing how much publicity this news is receiving in mainstream media, it would be ignorant to speculate that no additional scrutiny would apply. In most things, Homeland Security and USCIS, in particular, are painfully slow to move and act, but when public perception is this widespread and regardless of whether one leans left or right in terms of politics, the majority consensus believes the current H-1B cap lottery system is utterly broken, USCIS is going to act because the agency cares how they are ultimately viewed in the public limelight,” Min Kim, partner and attorney at the Edison, New Jersey, office of law firm Chugh LLP, said.
To determine if multiple registrations exist for the same beneficiary, USCIS will compare every filed case against the H-1B registration database.
“USCIS will likely come down hard, especially where they find evidence of collusion and multiple coordinated registrations. Previously, we have seen USCIS rejecting the filed petition and in some cases issuing a notice of intent to revoke after approval, when evidence of multiple coordinated registrations came to their attention,” says Manjunath Gokare, an immigration lawyer based in Atlanta, Georgia.
The potential range of consequences of fraudulent activity by H-1B applicants, detected by the USCIS, could be very far-reaching.
“Even if USCIS does not detect such perceived misbehaviour at that moment in time, and thus an H-1B cap petition is filed and perhaps even approved for that foreign national worker, later if USCIS comes to the conclusion that certain unscrupulous conduct was done for it to now suspect that the beneficiary petitioning employers gamed the lottery system, an earlier approved H-1B cap petition can be revoked, thereby leaving the beneficiary without any lawful status in the US and at risk of being forcibly removed from the country,” warns Kim.