visa officer finds fraud

This is How Far Visa Officers Go to Find Fraudulent Visa Applicants

Raghuram Sukumar USA Visa

Over 200 Indian students are reported to be denied entry into the USA since December 2015. Several travelers shared their experiences with CBP officers at the various port of entry. Check the following articles, Indian Students Deported from blacklisted universities and Interview with Deported Indian student.  But, few question remains unanswered Why do U.S. Consulates issue them visa in

  • Why do U.S. Consulates issue them visa in the first place if they are not qualified students?
  • What’s the difference between volunteer withdraw at the port of entry vs. deportation?

You can now infer answers to the two questions. Annika Schauer, an ex-counselor officer who’s Bio, is described as “I’ve processed a couple 10,000 visas or so”. She posted an answer in this Quora thread; that explains how visa officers work and what goes behind the scenes. Above all, you can find the answer to the two unanswered questions about qualified students and volunteer withdrawal from the port of entry.


Behinds the Scene:  After U.S. Visa Interview

I’m going to tell this story as best I can from memory.  I might get a few small details wrong.  I hope you’ll forgive me.  I’m not making this up, though.

The worst H1b case I saw was related to an applicant who was slated for a “tech” job in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Having suffered the misfortune of attending middle school just a block away from where this job was purported to be, I knew full well that the company could not be the size described in the paperwork.  All of the buildings on that section of Oak Street, just north of Downtown, look like this:

streets of myrtle beach

And Myrtle Beach is by no means considered to be a tech magnet for international employees.  Something didn’t smell right.

So I started to do a bit of digging.

Mind you, by the time that USCIS approved an H1b petition and it crossed my desk at Department of State, there basically had to be a felony involved for any attempt to stop the visa from going, though.  This is still the policy.  So many cases had to be handled every day, which State employees are expected and encouraged just to rubber stamp anything handed to them by USCIS, for the sake of efficiency and saving taxpayers money.  I don’t agree with this, but it’s the reality of the situation.

But the alarm bells in my mind were not going to stop.  Something was wrong with this picture.

I took a look at the petition package.  You can usually tell when a case is shitty because the package will be thousands of pages long.  This means that USCIS thought something was fishy and sent in an RFE (request for evidence), lawyers got involved, and someone smart decided that the best solution was to assault the paper pushers with so much crap documentation that they’ll give up based on not being able to read through it all in a timely manner.  You’d be surprised how often this works.

The package for this particular company was the size and weight of a cinderblock.  Not a good sign.

The petitioning company claimed to have 500+ employees, all farmed out to small, individual businesses.  The “client”, as it were, for this applicant was a franchise operation better known for making delicious coffee than for any kind of technical work.  Its name rhymed with blumpkin blownuts.  Occasionally large chain restaurants need a few very smart IT people to set up centralized systems in the corporate offices.  That’s fine.  That’s not what this was.  This was a guy going to a Blumpkin Blownuts shop in low country South Carolina to do some kind of unspecified IT work.  Which probably involved hot oil and a lot of tasty frosting…

The applicant had a bunch of family members on file who’d all immigrated earlier to the same neck of the woods, but he was too old at the time to go on his family’s petition as a dependent.  This alone would constitute fraud, but the Government doesn’t have the time and resources to go after individual applicants, so I started looking at the petitioner.

Bad petitioning companies all have funny misspelled names and crappy websites full of stock photos, and filler text that looks like it was generated by Markov bots, and dot biz TLDs.  If you look up their corporate headquarters, which they’re required to list, you’ll find the company is headquartered in someone’s basement, or in a temporary office space, or in the back of a nail salon, or a dead storefront in a podunk town like this one was.

These companies do nothing.  They make nothing.  They serve no master but their own greed.  The only reason for a bad H1b petitioning company to exist is to bring over bodies.  On fake paperwork.  Usually for a painful fee.  In the worst cases, by force or coercion.  It is a kind of organized crime, with all that that term implies.

I forget what this company was called, so let’s call it ImmiTech.

“ImmiTech” was the company that was purported to be headquartered on Oak Street, SC.  I noticed that it had been around a while (like 15 years), but it had changed its name many times, moved headquarters many times, and changed ownership many times.  I started looking into who owned the company, and found that several prior owners had been indicted for human smuggling.  Even this is not something that necessarily makes a company “bad” in the eyes of the U.S. immigration system, so I dug deeper.

Using a LOT of google fu (I’m a google fu master) I was able to chain “ImmiTech’s” website ICANN WhoIs back to a number of other of other dodgy websites, all built on what appeared to be the same template.  I mapped every street view for every address listed.  I did a LexisNexis on every name and address I could find.  I did a bunch of other crap.

A picture began to emerge.

This company, if you can call it that, had all sorts of fingers in all sorts of immigration pies.  Their bread and butter was not H1bs, although they did a brisk business in cases of similar quality to the one I was looking at.  What they seemed to specialize in was J1 visas for Summer Work Travel (a visa category popular among college students).  There were three major categories for Summer Work Travel applicants on their rosters: young Asian women (Thailand, China) between the ages of 18 and 25, young Eastern European women (Croatia, Ukraine, Albania), and older Jamaican women between 25 and 40 years of age.*

I combed through as many immigration records as I could find for the hundreds of applicants I saw.  I sent requests to the other consulates that did the processing (these records are not shared by default).  I asked USCIS to send me everything it had.  I did name searches.  I looked for arrest records.

I found a smattering of “voluntary” departures”**  A few arrests.  Some eventually went home on their own steam.  A lot of these women just disappeared, though.  I assume they’re still in America.  I hope they’re OK, and they chose to stay of their own accord.  But I have my doubts.

I reported everything I could find to the relevant agencies.  I have no idea what happened to that case.  I cobbled together the best revocation memo I could for the “IT” guy, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.  I have no idea whether his case ever went through.

The thing is, for each one of these “IT” guys I had the time and wherewithal to look at, there were literally hundreds I probably should have but couldn’t. I brought it up often.  We all did.  In India, people like to say “nothing to be done.”  It means, basically, fuck off.  That’s pretty much the response I got.  Congress wants these visas issued.  Go up against Congress at your peril.

The pressure to approve, approve, approve every single H1b that shows up, and having one’s hands tied to stop the production line of this human factory and say “hey wait a minute, this is wrong!” is something that weighs deeply on my conscience to this day.

The H1b system is broken.  It is byzantine.  Yes, there are many good applicants.  But far too many people get hurt in the process.

*A J1, unlike an H1b, can be refused at the level of a consular officer.  There were thousands of J1 applicants associated with this company.  Most were refused. A few hundred slipped through.  A few hundred too many.

**A “voluntary departure“, despite its name, is anything but.  It’s usually considered to be synonymous with a deportation among the immigrant community, but there are legal distinctions.


Here’s what can you learn from this experience:

Voluntary Departure: Deportation at the Port of Entry comes with a 5-year ban from the entering America. Voluntary Departure doesn’t come with a ban. So, these students who were denied Entry can apply for New Visa. But, as, per the remarks by this Visa officer, it’s considered as deportation. I spoke to a student. He applied for visa thrice after being denied entry into U.S.A. His visa was rejected every time.

Pressure to Approve visas in India.  There’s not much to add to that other than inferring what’s described by the visa officer. Could this be the reasons, there is high approval rates for F-1 Visa? This is something we don’t know many details to talk. Be your own judge here.

Visa officers know to how to dig around. Yes. Definitely. Putting pieces of information to find fraud is classic. So, you know what to expect if you are given 221(g) or getting denial after getting approval could be because of visa officers working behind the scenes to ensure only qualified people get the visa.

They are people like you and I with emotions.  We often read the experience of unfairness by visa officers. But, they are real people. They are doing their job. So, keep that in mind and treat them right.

Even qualified people get visas denied. Sometines qualified applicants could get visa denied. It happens. So, if you think you are qualified, then try to apply for visa again. If your visa was denied for a specific reason, then figure out why and fix your problems and re-apply.