In a Press Release issued on June 6, 2017, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced the Department of Labor's (DOL) aggressive plan of action to combat visa program fraud and abuse. The Secretary's pronouncements are consistent with the Trump Administration's general aim to protect American jobs and workers, as the Secretary believes visa abuse ultimately affects American workers' ability to support themselves and their families.

The Secretary set forth various implementations that would prospectively curb fraudulent visa activity. These included general goals, such as directing the Wage and Hour Division to "use all its tools in conducting civil investigations to enforce labor protections provided by the visa programs." They also included more specific plans of action: directing the department's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to develop potential changes to the Labor Condition Application—part of the H-1B visa application process—and directing the ETA to renew their investigatory forms. The Secretary believes that these changes will not only help agencies identify systematic violations regarding visa fraud but also provide more transparency for U.S. employees and the general public. The Secretary's last directive informed that the ETA and the Office of the Solicitor would coordinate its administration and enforcement activities of the visa programs and make criminal fraud referrals to the Office of the Inspector General.

The DOL is not acting alone to combat visa fraud. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, will be acting in concert to facilitate these efforts. In late May 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the USCIS is planning to issue new rules and guidance related to the H-1B visa program, which will supersede or change previous policy and more effectively protect the interests of U.S. workers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will also take a more active, up-front role in curbing abuse by targeting organizations for site visits. The USCIS will pay special attention to organizations where the agency cannot validate an employer's basic information using "commercially available data," where employers have a disproportionately high ratio of H-1B workers to other types of workers, and where employers petition for H-1B workers who will work off-site at a different organization's location.

These changes all come within the backdrop of President Trump's April 18, 2017, executive order designed to protect U.S. jobs and favor U.S. manufactured products and goods. The executive order specifically addressed the H-1B program and expressed concern regarding the residual effect the visa program has had; primarily, undercutting U.S. jobs and wages of American workers. These recent agency implementations are in furtherance of the goals elucidated in this executive order and will continue to advance this policy.

Your Lewis Brisbois attorney may aid you throughout the evolving visa application process and provide guidance for employers who have H-1B visa employees in their workforce.

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