Fraud allegations are rife in India following the US government's announcement that its controversial temporary worker visa quota has been used up for fiscal 1999.
With no more H1-B temporary work visas available until next year, allegations have surfaced that fraudulent applications from India have used up the available quota. According to INS statistics, 46 per cent of 1999 applicants came from India.
The US Immigration and Naturalisation Service said it would be returning any applications it received after 15 June and the petitioners could only re-apply after 1 October when H1-B visas for 2000 become available.
There were 115,000 visas available in 1999, a figure raised from 65,000 last year after a cantankerous debate pitting politicians siding with high tech employers against those siding with associations representing employees.
Raising the allegations in public, US politician Lamar Smith wrote to INS commissioner Doris Meissner saying that the House of Representatives Immigration and Claims Subcommittee, of which he is chair, had "clearly established that pervasive fraud in the H-1B program has had a major impact on the availability of the numerically limited visas."
He told of a recent investigation by the US Consulate at Chennai, India of 3,247 H-1B petitions. "The results were staggering - 45 per cent of the cases could not be authenticated and 21 per cent were identified as outright fraudulent. Chennai issued more than 15,000 H-1B visas in fiscal year 1998."
What particularly galled Smith and his sub-committee colleagues was "that even when fraud scams are exposed, those who have benefited from the fraud are not placed in removal proceedings. Failure to take action to deport aliens in such cases will only encourage more fraud."
The allegations of fraud in what is colloquially called the "guest worker" program will galvanise opponents of H1-B scheme. Already the IEEE-USA, which led the losing campaign last autumn to end the program altogether and revamp proper immigration, has moved into action.
There is a proposal from a Texas senator, Phil Gramm, to increase the 115,000 number to 200,000 next year. The IEEE-USA is asking its members to lobby their Representatives and Senator to ensure the move goes nowhere.
The news of Gramm's move will not immediately be supported by his fellow Republican, Smith. A spokesman said: "Mr Smith is quite concerned right now about evidence of fraud presented in that hearing, and he will definitely want to investigate those charges further before moving ahead with new legislation."
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