B-1 visas are short-term travel visas that allow workers to travel to the U.S. for a short-term visit, such as to attend a conference, negotiate a contract, or participate in short-term training. B-1 visa holders may not perform labor — skilled or unskilled — while in the U.S.
H-1B visas are non-immigrant visas that allow employers to temporarily employ foreign nationals in positions that require specialized knowledge and high levels of education. The application process is highly regulated, and the number of H-1B visas granted is restricted to 65,000 visas annually. The employer must certify that the salary of the employee with the H-1B visa is within the prevailing salary for similarly qualified and educated employees working in the U.S.
Lawsuits have revealed that some companies knowingly and deliberately use B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labor in the U.S. in order to fill employment positions that otherwise would have been performed by U.S. citizens or legitimate H-1B visa holders. Companies do this to increase their profits by minimizing costs of securing visas, obtaining an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoiding tax liabilities.
There are companies that routinely submit “invitation letters” to U.S. Consular Officials containing materially false representations regarding the true purpose of a B-1 visa holder’s travel in order to deceive U.S. Consular Officials and/or Customs and Border Protection Officers and secure entry of the visa holder into the United States. These “invitation letters” often state that the purpose of travel is for “meetings” or “discussions” when the true purpose is to engage in work activities not authorized under the more easily obtained B-1 visas.
In addition to deceiving the government and underpaying taxes and other fees, companies committing visa fraud often harm the employees themselves by:
- Failing to pay the amount promised in the H-1B visa application for the employee;
- Failing to pay the amount promised in the contract with the employee;
- Having the employee work full time on a B-1 visa and paying the employee in the currency of the employee’s nation of origin and at a much lower salary than that paid to U.S. employees with similar qualifications and performing similar work;
- Making improper deductions of pay;
- Requiring employees to pay the company the entire amount of their federal and state tax refund checks;
- Charging assessments and exorbitant fees for visa applications, recruitment, and other charges never disclosed or in breach of the employment agreement; and
- Failing to provide overtime compensation, meal breaks, or rest breaks in accordance with state and federal law.