Protecting Your IT Staff: Identifying H-1B Fraud and Fake OPT Applicants

An H1-B worker during a job interview

For employers in the ever-changing IT market, the challenge of filling cutting-edge positions with qualified professionals is all too familiar. As technology advances and STEM education struggles to keep pace, finding the right talent can be increasingly daunting. In this competitive landscape, H-1B workers often play a vital role in keeping technology-related businesses relevant. However, not all H-1B applicants are what they seem. It is crucial to remain vigilant and spot fake H-1B visas or Optional practical training (OPT) to protect your organization against potential fraud.

Recognize the scam

Obtaining the necessary work permits as a foreign professional in the United States is a complex and ever-changing process, in which not all qualified individuals are able to successfully navigate the system. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous entities that manipulate the system to benefit foreign applicants. Several factors are commonly associated with hiring candidates with falsified credentials:

  • The candidate is looking for a job in a field requiring cutting-edge technology, which is often difficult to fill.
  • The candidate claims to have rare and sought-after skills.
  • The candidate targets companies with a pressing need for such skills.
  • The candidate prefers contract work to full-time employment.
  • The candidate’s salary expectations are significantly below market rates.

These elements, in various combinations, are typical of many employment scams. If any of these warning signs apply to your company or candidates, exercise caution to protect yourself from fraudulent hires.

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The guilty

Most candidates with fake credentials enter a company through a recruiting company, which has recruited them from a contractor – usually the party orchestrating the scam. This arrangement often blurs accountability. These candidates are frequently OPT candidates, international students allowed to work as temporary employees but presented as highly experienced candidates at below-market salaries.

Ultimately, these workers do not have the necessary qualifications for the contract work your company requires. Successful contract employment depends on obtaining highly specialized professionals who can seamlessly adapt to their roles with minimal training. Applicants who fall victim to such scams are unlikely to meet even the most basic contractual requirements, so employers should remain vigilant.

The candidates

These candidates often undergo basic training in the vernacular of a sought-after technology, allowing them to “walk the talk” during interviews or shortlisting. They also frequently receive counterfeit H-1B visas and falsified background documents. In short, if a candidate seems too good to be true, they may actually be true.

Protect your interests

H-1B employees chat in an office

When you need employees with in-demand skills, maintaining a full team can be difficult. Contract workers play a central role in such scenarios, but are more likely to present falsified credentials.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recognizes that you do not have to be a document expert, but you must review your employees’ documents. If the documentation appears genuine, you are expected to accept it as such. However, several measures can help protect your organization against fraudulent hires:

  • Avoid hiring through subcontractors; rely on suppliers with trusted experience.
  • Conduct face-to-face interviews whenever possible and use video conferencing when physical meetings are not feasible.
  • Ask for photo identification before proceeding with screenings.
  • Obtain copies of the applicant’s passport, visa and visa. I-94 to check all CVs and application dates.

Counterfeit documents are becoming more sophisticated and unscrupulous sellers continue to refine their deceptive practices. As an employer, it is in your best interest to stay informed about scams and update your selection processes to effectively mitigate risks.

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