SSA Inspector General Finds Anomalies in H-1B Workers’ Use of Social Security Numbers
The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report (PDF) in September on H-1B workers’ use of Social Security Numbers (SSNs) that could result in more close monitoring of status violations by H-1B workers and potential liability for H-1B employers.
Based on the results of the review, the OIG estimated that about 7,131 (18 percent) of the 38,546 H-1B workers to whom the SSA assigned an SSN in 2007 may have used their SSNs for purposes other than to work for their approved employer. This estimate included about 4,433 (11 percent) H-1B workers who had posted wages during the audit period from an employer other than their Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-approved employer. The estimate also included about 2,698 (7 percent) H-1B workers who had no posted wages from 2007 through 2009.
The OIG noted that unauthorized work by H-1B workers weakens SSN integrity and may require that the agency pay future benefits to individuals who misuse an SSN to work in the U.S. In addition, the OIG noted, H-1B workers who do not work for their approved employer “could pose a risk to homeland security, because they may obtain employment in sensitive areas.”
The OIG also commented on a recent DHS study reporting that about 21 percent of the H-1B petitions it examined involved fraud or technical violations. The types of fraud identified included counterfeit or forged documents, storefront or shell businesses, no bona fide job offer, and misrepresentation of H-1B status. DHS subsequently clarified field guidance and instituted employer site visits to reduce fraud and abuse in the H-1B visa program.
Additionally, the OIG noted, the Department of Justice pursued criminal charges in multiple H-1B fraud cases. In one case, six individuals pled guilty to participating in a criminal conspiracy with the owner of a consulting firm to obtain H-1B visas for ineligible or unqualified individuals. All six individuals admitted that they had secured cash-paying jobs from unapproved employers instead of working for the consulting firm. In another case the OIG discussed, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 11 individuals accused of H-1B visa fraud. This investigation involved companies that did not always have jobs available for H-1B workers, which placed the workers in non-pay status after they arrived in the U.S. These companies and workers also allegedly submitted false statements and documents to support their H-1B visa petitions, the OIG noted. Because the subject of the OIG report involved immigration enforcement and visa-related issues, the OIG said it planned to share the report with the DHS and State Offices of Inspector General.
The OIG recommended that SSA contact DHS to offer to establish a data match agreement to assist DHS’s efforts to identify and reduce the number of H-1B workers who may use their SSNs for purposes other than to work for their approved employer. SSA agreed with that recommendation.