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  • Writer's pictureRathee Law Firm

H1B LOTTERY 2024: THE IMPACT OF FRAUDULENT APPLICATIONS AND THE STRUGGLES FACED BY INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

INTRODUCTION


The H1B visa program has been a cornerstone of US immigration policy, allowing skilled foreign workers to contribute to the growth and development of the nation's economy. However, the recent H1B lottery for 2024 has shed light on the issue of fraudulent applications and the difficulties faced by international students in securing employment in the United States. This article delves into the complexities of the H1B lottery, the ramifications of fraudulent applications, and potential solutions to these challenges.


H1B LOTTERY 2024: THE FRAUDULENT APPLICATION DILEMMA


The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reported that the number of H1B registrations for FY 2024 has set a record, but only 14.6% of eligible registrations were selected through the lottery process. This represents a substantial decline from the 26.9% selected for FY 2023 and the 43.8% selected for FY 2022. The significant increase in registrations for FY 2024 is largely due to fraudulent practices, such as multiple entries for the same individuals. One explanation for this surge is that companies with the same ownership may submit entries under different names, but other factors may also be at play. For example, applicants may have secured sponsorship from multiple independently owned companies, which is legal, or companies may have overestimated their labor needs when entering the lottery in March. USCIS is now considering changes to the lottery process in response to this trend.


GOVERNMENT MEASURES TO COMBAT FRAUD


To curb potential fraud, the government introduced a requirement last year for workers who won the lottery to sign affidavits stating they did not attempt to manipulate the system by collaborating with others to submit multiple bids under different company names without legitimate employment offers. In response to the growing number of multiple eligible registrations, USCIS has initiated extensive fraud investigations based on lottery submissions from the last two years, resulting in some petitions being denied and others being referred to federal prosecutors for possible criminal charges.


THE H1B LOTTERY AND INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN STEM


The number of H1B visas available falls far short of the number of foreign students graduating from U.S. universities and colleges each year. According to data from the 2019/20 academic year, more than 1 million international students were enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions, with over 220,000 of them in STEM fields. This imbalance has made it increasingly challenging for these students to find H1B sponsors, given the limited supply and high demand for such visas. In the technology industry, H1B visas are commonly used by software engineers and other professionals to fill hard-to-staff positions. Despite laying off workers in other areas, technology firms maintain that H1B visas are essential. However, as the number of applications has surged in recent years, major companies have seen a decline in successful lottery submissions.


THE H1B CAP: ORIGINS AND CHALLENGES


The H1B cap was established by Congress in 1990 and remains unchanged despite the growth of the U.S. economy and labor market. The cap is arbitrary and does not reflect the actual needs of U.S. employers and workers, nor does it account for fluctuations in demand due to economic cycles or global events.

To expand the H1B cap, Congress would need to pass legislation amending the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, this has proven to be politically challenging due to divergent views and interests of various stakeholders on immigration issues.


POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS


• To address these issues, several suggestions have been proposed:

• Implement a market-based mechanism that adjusts the H1B cap according to supply and demand signals, such as employer fees or wage levels.

• Create a separate visa category for foreign graduates of U.S. universities and colleges, especially in STEM fields, that would not be subject to the H1B cap.

• Enhance oversight and enforcement of the H1B program to prevent and deter fraud and abuse by employers, agents, or applicants.

• Improve the transparency and efficiency of the H1B registration and selection process by providing more data and feedback to applicants and employers.


CONCLUSION


The H1B visa program is intended to benefit both the U.S. economy and the skilled foreign workers who seek to contribute their talents and expertise. However, the recent H1B lottery for 2024 has exposed the flaws and vulnerabilities of the system, as fraudulent applications have reduced the chances of selection for genuine applicants and harmed the integrity and credibility of the program. The government has taken steps to prevent and deter fraud, such as requiring attestations, conducting investigations, and referring cases for prosecution. However, these measures may not be enough to address the root causes of the problem, such as the arbitrary and outdated H1B cap, the lack of a market-based mechanism to adjust the cap according to demand, and the absence of a separate visa category for foreign graduates of U.S. universities. To ensure that the H1B visa program fulfills its intended purpose and serves the best interests of both the U.S. and the foreign workers, Congress should enact comprehensive reforms that would modernize and streamline the system, while enhancing its oversight and enforcement.

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