India based firm underpaid visa fees by getting cheaper B-1 visas, rather than more expensive H-1B visas
India based L&T Technology Services, which provides services and personnel to companies in the United States, has agreed to pay $9,928,000 to resolve allegations that it underpaid visa fees between 2014 and 2019.
It did so by acquiring inexpensive B-1 visas, rather than more expensive H-1B visas, in alleged violation of the False Claims Act, according to a press release from the office of US Attorney for the District of South Carolina.
B-1 visas generally do not permit visa holders to perform paid labor while in the United States. At that time, fees for B-1 visas were between $200 to $300, and there was no limit on the number of B-1 visas that could be issued.
Although H-1B visas permit foreign nationals to perform paid labor while in this country, the visa fees for such work visas were between $4,000 to $6,000, the release noted.
Additionally, such visas are more difficult to obtain, because they are limited by an annual cap of 65,000, to foreign nationals with the equivalent of a bachelorâ€™s degree in an occupation requiring highly specialized knowledge; plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas annually to those in such occupations with a masterâ€™s degree or its equivalent.
The investigation leading to this settlement was initiated through the filing of a whistleblower complaint in the US District Court in Charleston, South Carolina.
â€œThe US Attorneyâ€™s Office will hold accountable those who skirt this countryâ€™s visa requirements,â€ said US Attorney for the District of South Carolina Adair F. Boroughs.
â€œOur immigration laws are intended to protect American jobs for American workers, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure companies securing work visas for foreign nationals strictly comply with those laws.â€
â€œThis settlement sends a clear message to those who seek to defraud the US government and exploit our nationâ€™s laws, that you will be found and held accountable,â€ said Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent In Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte, covering North and South Carolina.
â€œProtecting the integrity of the nationâ€™s immigration and labor laws from those looking to exploit them is of vital importance and HSI prioritizes this mission.