H1B Applications: Possible Identity Theft and Fraud.

On April 1st of every year the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) starts accepting applications for employment based immigration, popularly called the H1B visa category, for the coming year. Employers all over the country file applications through their immigration attorneys for suitable prospective non-immigrant employees (also referred to as H1B beneficiaries) to work for their companies in the US.


As everyone knows, America is the land of opportunity and there is a huge interest among skilled workers all over the world to come to the US for work. But there is a limit or ‘cap’ for this opportunity: no more than 85,000 prospective non-immigrant employees (65,000 under general quota and 20,000 under master students quota), will get the H1B in a year. USCIS accepts applications for a short period every year and if more than 85,000 applications are received then USCIS conducts a lottery and picks 85,000 applications randomly.


Each employer that submits an application gets a notification after the lottery as to whether the application was picked or not. If the application was picked a receipt for the application is sent to the employer. Employers then inform the employees for whom they have applied. During this process the employers collect a lot of personal information from the prospective employees and, depending on the company's policies, some companies also collects money from these prospects for filing the applications and for fees paid to immigration attorneys.


What is the Problem?


Lack of Transparency. There is a real possibility of prospective employees who are paying for the application becoming victims of immigration fraud and identity theft by unscrupulous employers, or outright fraudsters.

This can happen because when employers submit applications for more than one candidate at a time there is no way for a prospective employee to know for sure whether his application was actually included in the package of applications submitted. USCIS does not provide notification of receipt of individual applications, so employers typically provide courier (FedEx/UPS/USPS) tracking numbers to the employees as evidence of application submission. Unfortunately, this tracking number only shows that a package was delivered to the intended destination, but cannot show that the delivered package contains the application of a specific employee.


So a rogue employer can take advantage of this loophole to submit one application and then distribute the same tracking number to other prospective employees from whom they have collected money. The unsuspecting employees will track the application and think that their applications are delivered to USCIS. Unscrupulous employers can collect money from any number of prospective employees and tell them that their applications have been filed without even applying.   Later, after the lottery, the fraudsters tell these prospective employees that their applications were not picked in the lottery. Although some of the money paid by the employee in such cases may be returned by the employer, much of it is not, and substantial amounts can be kept by rogue employers on the basis of claimed "attorney expenses".

Another problem that is even more dangerous to the employee is the possibility of identity theft. For filing the H1B application employers collect a lot of personally identifiable information (PII) or other sensitive personal information including the SSN, DOB, address etc. With this information in the hands of the rogue employers or less responsible employers who do not take adequate precautions to safeguard this sensitive information or securely dispose of it then there is a possibility that those prospective employees may have to deal with the consequences of identity theft for the rest of their lives.


What is the Solution? 


Transparency: The ideal solution is USCIS notifying the prospective employees also along with the employers when they receive the application and in every step from thereafter.But, for various reasons, this is not likely to happen soon.


Awareness: All prospective non-immigrant employees should have access to information about potential risks and possible loopholes in the process and know not to trust the putative employers blindly. There are many sites on the internet which show credibility ratings of employers. Scouring the internet and gathering as much information as possible is the best thing to do.


Control Identity Theft: Since employees must unavoidably provide their PII to employers as part of the current H1B application process controlling identity theft is quite difficult. We need a completely different way of handling these applications. AJAC group has a new process, an innovative patent pending solution, which when fully implemented, will practically eliminate any requirement for providing or storing such personal identification information in such cases. 


Partner with us: If you are with a company working in the cybersecurity domain and are interested to know more about our solution or would like to partner with us then please contact us at info@ajacsolutions.com



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