Published September 6, 2016
When clients ask me why immigration authorities make it so difficult for companies and their foreign workers to get a work visa petition approved, I tell them that they are paying for the sins of the businesses submitting other than legitimate filings. Yes, the employment based immigration environment is littered with employers trying to pull off immigration fraud and it is through such a lens that immigration authorities approach all work visa filings, especially those submitted by small and medium sized organizations.
In a plea deal entered into last week, Raju Kosuri, 44, and Smriti Jharia, 45, a married Indian American couple from Ashburn, Virginia pled guilty in federal court to a wide variety of criminal charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States and visa fraud. According to the facts admitted to in their plea agreement, the couple along with co-conspirators operated a staffing agency whose work force was largely composed of employees brought into the U.S. by way of work visas premised on fictitious business entities and fraudulent immigration filings. More than 900 such filings were submitted, leading to the issuance of H-1B work visas for hundreds of workers who would be assigned to businesses and locations other than as outlined in the underlying visa petition filings. Additionally, the workers were not compensated at the levels as pledged in these visa petitions.
The subject scheme was carried out over a 6 year period starting in 2008. The charges outlined in the original criminal indictment also depict the criminal enterprise as a visa for sale operation, featuring companies and positions that were invented for the sole purpose of facilitating visa issuance. Furthermore, workers were also forced to pay all processing and legal fees associated with the filing of these applications, requirements that violate governing immigration and labor regulations.
In addition to immigration fraud charges, the couple admitted to defrauding the Small Business Administration and illegally procuring federal funding by submitting SBA certification applications premised on fabrications and outright misrepresentations. As part of the plea agreement, the couple will forfeit $21 million in proceeds and face up to 30 years of jail time. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
For certain, cases like this make it only tougher for legitimate companies seeking to employ foreign workers. Petitioning employers will continue to have to prove their legitimacy and overcome a presumption of guilt that tends to informally find its way into the government’s decision making process when reviewing work visa filings.
PUBLISHED September 6, 2016– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2016, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois