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Labor Secretary Signals Scrutiny Of Visa Program Abuse

7 Jun

The head of the U.S. Department of Labor signaled Tuesday that the agency will be taking a tough stance on visa abuse and hinted at an increased utilization of criminal referrals, while the department noted that updates may be on the horizon for an application used for H-1B visas.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta has decided it’s the policy of the agency to “vigorously” enforce laws surrounding visa programs, according to the DOL, which listed initiatives like making referrals regarding criminal fraud and developing Labor Condition Application updates.

“Entities who engage in visa program fraud and abuse are breaking our laws and are harming American workers, negatively affecting Americans’ ability to provide for themselves and their families. We will enforce vigorously those laws, including heightened use of criminal referrals,” Secretary Acosta said.

He added that the DOL will “focus on preventing visa program abuse and take every available legal action against those who abuse these programs.”

The initiatives listed in the agency’s statement include telling the department’s Wage and Hour Division to use “all its tools” in performing probes to enforce labor protections stemming from visa programs, and directing the Employment and Training Administration to come up with potential changes for the Labor Condition Application, which is part of the H-1B process.

The push will also include directing the Wage and Hour Division, the ETA and the Office of the Solicitor to both coordinate oversight of the visa programs and “make referrals of criminal fraud to the Office of the Inspector General,” according to the DOL.

The latest announcement from the agency comes a couple of months after the DOL said that it would use its existing authority to begin investigations of those who violate the H-1B program.

The Trump administration has continued to scrutinize the H-1B visa program, with an April 18 executive order instructing several agency heads to “suggest reforms” to help ensure H-1B visas are given to the “most skilled or highest-paid” beneficiaries.

And in response to an inquiry from lawmakers, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a message released recently that it’s planning to issue new rules and guidance related to the H-1B visa program, consistent with the president’s recent executive order on the issue.

Additionally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has also said it intends to narrow its targets for site visits, focusing on cases in which the agency cannot validate an employer’s basic information through “commercially available data,” employers have a relatively high ratio of H-1B workers to other types of workers and employers petition for H-1B workers who will work off-site at another organization’s location.