What is an H1-B Visa?
The United States Department of Labor defines an H1-B Visa Sponsorship as “a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.” The intent of an H-1B visa sponsorship is to help companies, who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce.
Under the Immigration act of 1990, the United States limits the number of foreign nationals who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status to 65,000 each fiscal year. There are an additional 20,000 H-1Bs available for foreign nationals holding a master’s degree or higher from a United States university.
LHP’s Role in H-1B Visa Process
LHP Engineering Solutions helps process and submit H-1B visa applications for the sponsorship each year. Currently, there are roughly 200 employees with H-1B sponsorship. Of those who are submitted through LHP for sponsorship each year, roughly 30% are selected.
Recent Scams involving H-1B Visa Applicants and LHPU Students
Immigration and H-1B sponsorship have been topics of debate in the United States under the current Administration. Thousands of foreign workers have endured scams and faced with chilling experiences that have cost them hundreds and thousands of dollars.
There has been recent illegal and unlawful activity surrounding LHPU students and foreign LHP employees. Individuals have been receiving phone calls from an unsolicited number claiming to be with Homeland Security, IRS, or local police stations. These individuals were told they had defaulted on their taxes and missed payments, resulting in potential jail time or deportation if payment was not made in a timely manner.
In a matter of hours, individuals were forced to give payment over the phone and often coaxed into giving sensitive information such as their social security number, home address, and banking information.
Often, because individuals comply with the scammer's request, they are unable to be refunded their money. Due to the recent turmoil and immigration reform, many working immigrants and foreign employees are on edge and are fearful of deportation and jail time, resulting in compliance with impostors.
Two LHP employees share accounts of recent scams:
Employee 1: “These scammers are very clever, methodical in their actions, and specifically target international workers like me. The scammer found my personal information online through a series of job sites and resumes that had been kept public for recruiter’s access. During the phone call, I was forced to believe the impostor because they called from a local ID, claiming to be the police department. The impostor was very calm and sounded authentic and confident when she spoke. She must have practiced dozens of times. As a foreign employee working in the United States, I am very cautious and aware of deportation. The scammer was able to trick me into giving money because they preyed on my fear, telling me that they would arrest me if I didn’t comply.”
Employee 2: "It was around 5:00 pm in the afternoon when I received a call from an unknown number. I Answered the phone and was met on the other end by a man claiming to be with the FBI. The man told me I owed money to my university from unpaid taxes. I was hesitant because I had received grant scholarship money, and my university fees were waived. He was persistent, and told me if I did not pay I was going to be arrested and face jail time. I complied with his requests, and went to three separate stores, buying gift cards totaling over $6,000. When I realized I was being scammed, I reached out to my bank and was able to get $5,000 back. The scammer was very tricky, and used viable contact information to make me believe he was from the FBI. He used a caller ID from an FBI contact that was listing on their webiste, and sent me an email from an IRS email domain detailing the transactions."
LHP urges all employees, especially international, to not comply to direct phone calls asking for money or personal information. The IRS, Homeland Security, and local police departments will never demand payment over the phone if a bill has not been previously sent to your home address.
LHP reached out to the local police department for a statement:
Matt Harris- Columbus Police Department, Public Relations Office
“Use caution and do not take these calls at face value. If there is any doubt, ask for a name and hang up the phone. Call the number logged on your phone to verify they are who they say they are.”
“Legitimate businesses and the INS are not going to ask for payment via a Best Buy, Target, or iTunes gift card. Do not wire money as it is the most difficult manner in which to track.”
“Never give your personal information over the phone, if they are a legitimate business, they should have all of your information.”
“Be on guard around tax time as this is the most popular period for scams.” Tax season is January 1 – April 15.
Tips from the IRS to avoid Scams
The following information comes from the IRS Newsroom
The IRS reminds people that they can know easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:
Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Impostor Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Remember, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.
Contact LHP to learn more
At LHP, we are proud of our strong, diverse workforce. It is our goal to equip our employees with the resources and help they need. We have an on-site legal counsel and work with several 3rd party agencies to handle the international caseload.
If you have a legal emergency or believe you are being scammed, please contact your local authorities.
For more information on LHP’s H-1B sponsorship, or to apply for an open position- contact LHP.
Columbus, IN Police Department contact:
Matt Harris, Public Relations Office
Columbus Police Department
For more information, visit http://www.columbus.in.gov/police/
Or call (812) 376-2600