A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Contact: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Illegal OPT Employment with Sham Companies: Findream LLC

Many people have heard about Findream LLC - a Californian company that was recently shut down by the government for visa fraud.  The people involved were arrested and prosecuted. Why was this company busted? This is because it helped F-1 students illegally maintain their OPT status through fake employment.

Students on regular post-completion OPT are only allowed to be unemployed for 90 days. Students with an approved 24-month extension will be entitled to another 60 days of unemployment time for a total of 150 days over the entire period of post-completion OPT. Their SEVIS records will be automatically terminated once the authorized unemployment period has run. Therefore, students need an employer and a job to maintain their status.

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It is not easy to find a job, especially when the clock is ticking. Some students may just stop looking for the perfect job and accept offers for not very desirable or non-paying position to keep themselves from going out of status. Others may turn to companies, like Findream LLC in Silicon Valley, that can "help" them maintain their F-1 status. By claiming these companies as their employers, the students affiliate themselves with such companies for the sole purpose of maintaining legal status.

Many students learn of these companies through friends and website advertisements. It is a bad idea to establish an "employment" relationship with such company. These companies are shams and their employments are illegal. "Employees" of these companies do not need to go to work at all. The company will not pay them, yet will provide documents such as pay stubs and work records for students to prove their status. In fact, it is the students who need to pay the "employer" to get offer letters and sometimes employment verification letters.

Some students may not understand the seriousness of using these sham companies to maintain their status. Being "employed" by these companies is a violation of a student's F-1 status. In the meantime, being involved in these OPT "employment" constitute a willful misrepresentation of a material fact. Even though USCIS has not yet actively taken actions to charge the student "employees", these violations are ticking time bombs. They may cause challenges and denials to a student's future applications for immigration benefits, such as H-1B, green card, and even naturalization. Once a student is found guilty of visa fraud, it becomes permanent in their lifetime immigration record.

There are alternatives for F-1 students to maintain their valid status through employment. Post-completion OPT students may consider taking offers from a smaller company, taking up volunteer positions, or working for their school or professors. Students may even start their own business to employ themselves. Of course, their self-owned enterprises need to be legitimate. USCIS scrutinizes STEM OPT with a stricter standard. However, it is more of a reason that they must take the legal way.

After Findream, some students might panic because they previously used or still using these sham companies, while some students are still actively looking for such companies to bridge their status. It is not wise to continue further connection with these fraudulent companies. We suggest that students immediately dissociate from them and talk to an experienced immigration lawyer if they have concerns about their employment history and immigration status.

1/9/2020 update: 

The owner of Findream LLC and Sinocontech LLC pled guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud on 12/29/2019 in Chicago. 

There are also reports that foreign (Chinese) students who were sponsored by Findream for OPT employment before were stopped and removed by Customs and Border Protection officers upon their return from overseas travel. 

(Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit www.1visa1.com to schedule legal consultation.) 

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