Why Your Business Needs To Follow The Rules When Bringing Foreign Workers Into The United States
Many Florida business owners wish to hire foreign nationals as employees, often because they possess certain advanced skills or credentials. There are often strict rules (and quotas) governing the issuance of visas for these types of foreign workers. For example, if you apply for a H1-B visa on behalf of an employee, you must certify to the government that you will pay that employee at least as much as you do a local hire performing the same work in the same geographic area. In other words, you cannot import workers under a H1-B visa and pay them substantially less than their U.S. citizen counterparts.
Federal Judge Dismisses “False Claims” Lawsuit Against Employer Over Alleged H-1B Visa Fraud
A recent decision from a federal judge in Connecticut provides a cautionary tale for businesses suspected of abusing the visa process. In this case, United States ex rel Brillington v. HCL Technologies Ltd., four Indian nationals who worked for a U.S.-based information technology services company (the defendant) attempted to sue their former employer. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant had a policy of employing Indian citizens to provide IT support for lower wages than American citizens, which in turn helped the defendant “better compete for corporate clients and reap larger profits.”
Essentially, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant fraudulently applied for H1-B visas since it did not pay its Indian visa holders the prevailing wage required by law. Furthermore, the defendants also improperly applied L-1 and B-1 visas for Indian IT workers in cases where an H1-B visa was required. In the latter case, the defendant allegedly misrepresented the types of work that the visa holders actually performed.
The plaintiffs brought their lawsuit under a federal statute known as the False Claims Act (FCA). The FCA permits individuals to sue on behalf of the federal government when they have reason to believe that another individual or business has defrauded the government. For example, FCA lawsuits are commonly used to pursue cases where individuals have defrauded the government out of the payment of certain benefits or contracts.
Here, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant effectively defrauded the government out of its “property” in the form of the improperly granted visas. A federal judge rejected this argument, however, noting that the right to control “licenses” was not a property interest. Indeed, the visas had “no value to the government beyond the revenue stream of application fees.” In this case, the defendant paid the fees for the visas it did apply for. And even if the plaintiffs were correct in their assertion the defendant should have applied for different visas for certain workers, that by itself did not trigger any obligation to pay fees. Accordingly, the judge dismissed the FCA lawsuit.
Speak with a Palm Beach Gardens Business Immigration Lawyer Today
Although the employer prevailed in this particular lawsuit, it should still serve as a warning to all business owners about the substantial risks of manipulating or abusing the process for obtaining foreign worker visas. This is one area where you always want to do everything above-board. So if you do need legal advice or representation from an experienced Palm Beach County business-based immigration attorney, contact the Devore Law Group today to schedule a consultation.