The US immigration officials have reported that they have discovered extensive fraud in the huge surge of 61 per cent in applications filed for the 2024 fiscal year allocation of temporary work visas, known as H1-B, and promised a crackdown.
US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) has "undertaken extensive fraud investigations, denied and revoked petitions accordingly, and is in the process of initiating law enforcement referrals for criminal prosecution", the agency said on Friday.
According to the agency, some companies applying for H1-B visas may have colluded to submit multiple applications for the same person.
The H1-B visas are allocated through a lottery system and having several applications for the same person increases their chances of getting the coveted visa.
Companies file the applications on behalf of persons they want to hire to work in the US.
The agency reported a gigantic increase in the number of applications received for 2024 fiscal year starting October: 780,884, which were 296,957 more than the previous year's 483,927.
"The large number of eligible registrations for beneficiaries with multiple eligible registrations - much larger than in previous years - has raised serious concerns that some people may have tried to gain an unfair advantage by working together to submit multiple registrations on behalf of the same beneficiary," the agency said.
"This may have unfairly increased their chances of selection," USCIS said, adding, "We remain committed to deterring and preventing abuse of the registration process, and ensuring only those who follow the law are eligible to file an H-1B cap petition."
It said that those suspected of fraud could be referred to other federal agencies for further investigation and prosecution.
The agency said that it found 408,891 applicants with multiple registrations for the lottery this time, compared to 165,180 last year.
It said that 110,791 applications were approved for the 2024 fiscal year.
The nationality breakdown was not immediately available, but about 70 per cent of the H1-B visas have gone to Indians in previous years.