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Safeguarding Your IT Workforce: Identifying H-1B Fraud and Fake OPT Candidates

Oct 31, 2023

An H1-B worker at a job interview

For employers in the ever-evolving IT market, the challenge of filling cutting-edge positions with skilled professionals is all too familiar. As technology advances and STEM education strives 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 tech-related companies relevant. However, not all H-1B candidates are what they seem. It’s crucial to remain vigilant and discern fake H-1B visas or Optional Practical Training (OPT) candidates to protect your organization from potential fraud.

Recognizing the Scam

Obtaining the necessary work permits as a foreign professional in the United States is a complex and ever-changing process, where not everyone who is qualified successfully navigates the system. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous entities that manipulate the system for foreign hopefuls. Several factors are commonly associated with the hiring of candidates with falsified credentials:

  • The candidate seeks employment in a field demanding cutting-edge technology, often challenging to fill.
  • The candidate claims to possess rare, high-demand skills.
  • The candidate targets companies with a pressing need for such skill sets.
  • The candidate prefers contract work over full-time employment.
  • The candidate’s salary expectations are significantly below market rates.

These elements, in various combinations, typify many employment scams. If any of these warning signs apply to your business or job candidates, exercise caution to shield yourself from fraudulent hires.

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The Culprits

Most candidates with forged credentials enter a business through a staffing firm, which has sourced them through a subcontractor – typically the party orchestrating the scam. This arrangement often blurs accountability. These candidates are frequently OPT candidates, international students authorized to work as temporary employees but presented as highly experienced job applicants at below-market wages.

Ultimately, these workers lack the qualifications needed for the contract work your company requires. Successful contract employment hinges on securing highly specialized professionals who can seamlessly fit into their roles with minimal training. Candidates from such scams are unlikely to fulfill even the most basic contract needs, so employers should remain vigilant.

The Candidates

These candidates often undergo basic training in the vernacular of sought-after technology, enabling them to “talk the talk” during interviews or pre-screening. They are also frequently provided with counterfeit H-1B visas and falsified background documentation. In summary, if a candidate seems too good to be true, they may indeed be.

Protecting Your Interests

H-1B workers chat in an office

When you need employees with skills that are in high demand, maintaining a fully-staffed team can be challenging. Contract workers play a pivotal role in such scenarios but are more likely to present falsified credentials.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) acknowledges that you’re not required to be a document expert, but you must examine your employees’ documentation. If the documentation appears genuine, you are expected to accept it as such. Nevertheless, several measures can help safeguard your organization against fraudulent hires:

  • Avoid hiring through sub-vendors; rely on vendors with a trusted track record.
  • Conduct face-to-face interviews whenever possible, and use videoconferencing when physical meetings are unfeasible.
  • Request a picture ID before proceeding with screenings.
  • Obtain copies of the candidate’s passport, visa, and I-94 to verify all resume and application dates.

Counterfeit documents are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and unscrupulous vendors continue to refine their deceptive practices. As an employer, it’s in your best interest to stay informed about scams and update your screening processes to mitigate risks effectively.