Three Indian-origin high-tech consultants have been arrested and charged with H1-B visa fraud in a California federal court, according to US officials.
Kishore Dattapuram, Kumar Aswapathi and Santosh Giri were charged with allegedly submitting fraudulent H1-B visa applications for non-existent jobs, according to federal prosecutor David Anderson.
A citizen's panel known as grand jury made the determination after initial hearings, he said.
They will be tried on the charges to determine their guilt later.
The three have denied the charges and were released on bail, officials said.
According to court papers, they ran a consulting firm, Nanosemantics, Inc., which placed workers with other companies, and submitted the fake H1-B visa applications so that they could have a ready pool of workers for placement with other customers.
Several visa applications submitted by them "stated that particular workers had specific jobs waiting for them at designated companies when, in reality, the defendants knew that these jobs did not exist", the officials said.
In one case, they allegedly orchestrated payments by their company to someone for permission to list his company as the employer even though they planned to place the workers elsewhere, according to court papers.
H1-B visas are non-immigrant visas given to professionals or highly qualified people. According to US government data, 309,986 H1-B visas, or nearly 74 per cent, were held by Indians last year.
President Donald Trump's administration has announced a crackdown on visa fraud and changes to the H1-B visas system to give greater preferences to applicants educated in the US and to tighten the regulations governing the work visas.
Because the number of applicants far exceeds the 65,000 visas available every year, they are allotted through a lottery.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @arulouis)
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