A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Labor Department Announces Measures to Target Visa Program Fraud and Abuse

On June 7, 2017, the U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced a series of actions to counter visa program fraud and abuse.  According to the Secretary, these new measures aim to increase protections of American workers, and also to more aggressively target companies that engage in fraud and abuse.   The Labor Department will enforce the laws vigorously, and if appropriate, refer cases for criminal prosecution.

According to the announcement, the policy of the Department of Labor is to enforce vigorously all laws and regulations within its power.  Specifically, the Secretary directs its staff and agencies to review all visa programs and look for instances of fraud and abuse.  Further, a series of measures will be implemented including:

  • Directing the department’s Wage and Hour Division to use all its tools in conducting civil investigations to enforce labor protections provided by the visa programs. 
  • Directing the department’s Employment and Training Administration to develop proposed changes to the Labor Condition Application, and for the division to review their investigatory forms, to better identify systematic violations and potential fraud, and provide greater transparency for agency personnel, U.S. workers and the general public. 
  • Directing the division, ETA and the Office of the Solicitor to coordinate the administration and enforcement activities of the visa programs and make referrals of criminal fraud to the Office of the Inspector General. 
  • Establishing a working group made up of senior leadership from ETA, the division and Solicitor’s office to supervise this effort and coordinate enforcement to avoid duplication of efforts and maximize the efficiency of the department’s activities regarding the visa programs. The working group shall invite OIG to send representatives to participate in its efforts.

The Department of Labor will continue to join efforts with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security in the investigation and detection of visa program fraud and abuse.

The Secretary also reports that "work has already begun on promoting the hiring of Americans and safeguarding working conditions in the U.S."  Accordingly, the Labor Department has begun investigation and prosecution of employers that have violated the terms of visa programs. For example, the Secretary reports that the department successfully obtained a preliminary injunction under the H­2A visa program from the U.S. District Court for Arizona against G Farms for "illegal and life ­threatening housing provided to agricultural workers."  Investigation of this case is ongoing.

The Trump Administration has requested several cabinet heads to review the current visa programs and make recommendations to reform and improve them.  The focus is on the enforcement of law and tightening of the employment visa programs for foreign workers.  These announcements by the Labor Secretary respond directly to these mandates by the President.  Additional announcements and measures by other departments are likely to follow soon.  Employers, especially those who employ foreign workers, should review their HR policies, hiring practices, payroll documents, and other visa related documents (such as LCA, prevailing wage determinations, etc.) to ensure full compliance of the law.

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