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How to Spot H-1B Fraud & Fake OPT Candidates

Bridge Team Member

If you’re an employer in the IT market, you know how difficult it can be to keep your most cutting-edge positions filled. As technology continues to evolve and STEM education does its best to keep up, it can be more and more challenging to find workers with the skills you need.

Often, H-1B workers are essential to keeping tech-related companies relevant. Such candidates’ credentials, however, aren’t always what they seem, so it’s important to remain alert and keep an eye out for fake H-1B visas or OPT candidates.

What the Scam Often Looks Like

Obtaining the requisite permits to work as a foreigner in the United States is obviously a laborious and mercurial process – not everyone who’s qualified makes it through. There are some unscrupulous companies out there that aren’t above doctoring things up for foreign hopefuls who haven’t legitimately navigated the system. There are several factors that are frequently associated with the hiring of candidates with faked credentials:

  • The candidate is looking for employment in a job that demands cutting-edge technology (jobs that are often difficult to fill)
  • The candidate purports to possess skills that are in high demand and are difficult to come by
  • The candidate pursues positions at companies with the greatest need for such skill sets
  • The candidate is seeking contract work – not full-time employment
  • The candidate’s salary requirements are below the market rate

These elements – in one form or another – sum up the substance of many employment scams. If any such elements apply to your business and job candidates, be vigilant about protecting yourself from fake hires.

The Perpetrators

Most of the candidates with faked credentials will come to a business through a staffing firm that’s obtained them via a sub-contractor, which is usually the perpetrator of the scam. In this way, accountability can be blurred. The job candidates themselves are most often OPT candidates – international students who are eligible to work as temporary employees in Optional Practical Training (OPT) and who are being fobbed off as highly-experienced job candidates at wage rates below market value.

In the end, these workers aren’t qualified to do the contract work your company seeks. After all, the name of the contract game is filling highly-specific positions with qualified workers who can drop right into their roles with little training or guidance. The employees forwarded by such scams aren’t likely to satisfy even your most basic contract needs, so employer beware.

The Candidates

These candidates usually go through some basic training in the language of the highly sought technology that allows them to “talk the talk”in an interview or pre-screening. Further, they’re often kitted out with falsified H-1B visas and other necessary background documentation. In short, if a candidate seems too good to be true, he or she very well may be.

How to Protect Yourself

When you need employees who possess skills that aren’t readily available, it can be difficult to remain fully staffed. Contract workers often play an important role in such situations, but they are also the candidates who are most likely to have falsified credentials.

The USCIS allows that, while you must examine your employees’ documentation, you aren’t required to be a document expert. If the documentation reasonably appears to be genuine, you must accept it as being so. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from a fake hire:

  • Avoid hiring through sub-vendors; stick to vendors with whom you have a work history and whom you trust
  • Have face-to-face interviews, and when that’s not possible, conduct interviews via videoconference, which decreases – but doesn’t eliminate – the odds that you’ll interview someone who’s falsely representing your hire.
  • Ask for picture ID before you conduct a screening
  • Obtain copies of the candidate’s passport, visa, and I-94 to verify all resume and application dates

Documents get forged, and unscrupulous vendors of these fake applicants get craftier and craftier. As an employer, it’s always in your best interest to stay on top of the scams and keep your screening processes up to date.

Disclaimer: Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.


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