• What is the Difference Between B-1 and H-1B Visas?
  • April 22, 2014 | Author: Daniel M. Hutchinson
  • Law Firm: Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP - San Francisco Office
  • B-1 visas are for business persons traveling to the U.S. for a short-term visit, such as to attend a conference, negotiate a contract, or participate in short-term training. B-1 visa holders generally may not perform skilled or unskilled labor while in the U.S. H-1B visas are for foreign nationals who are temporarily employed in the U.S. in positions that require specialized knowledge and high levels of education. The application process is highly regulated and limited to 85,000 visas annually. The employer must certify that the salary of the employee with the H-1B visa is within the prevailing salary for similarly qualified and educated employees working in the U.S.

    Why are the B-1 and H-1B Visa Programs Controversial?

    Serious concerns have been raised concerning abuses of the B-1 and H-1B visa programs, including that employers use these visas to replace U.S. employees with lower-wage workers from overseas. H-1B visa holders are supposed to be paid a fair market wage, referred to as a "prevailing wage," but that does not always happen and some companies pay less than the prevailing wage.

    Employers that violate the requirements for B-1 and H-1B visas may be subject to prosecution by the federal authorities. For example, on October 30, 2013, the Indian information technology and consulting firm Infosys Limited ("Infosys") announced that it would pay $34 million to the U.S. government to settle claims that it engaged in systematic visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes.

    The U.S. Attorney's Office alleged that Infosys routinely obtained B-1 visas for skilled, non-U.S. citizens to work as full-time employees at U.S. companies in violation of U.S. immigration law. The New York Times noted that that the federal investigation into visa use by the Indian technology outsourcing giant "brought to light widespread abuses in the industry and prompted investigations into other foreign outsourcing firms." Infosys denied it committed visa fraud. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/31/us/indian-tech-giant-infosys-paying-34-million-to-settle-visa-abuse-case.html?&under;r=1& amp;

    Have H-1B and L-1 Visa Holders Working in the U.S. Been Taken Advantage of by Their Employers?

    Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Lieff Cabraser has successfully represented non-U.S. citizens who worked in the United States on H-1B and L-1 visas in lawsuits alleging claims for breach of contract and violations of U.S. labor laws.

    We are currently investigating claims against companies employing non-U.S. citizens in technology or information technology jobs for violations of the law including:

    • Failing to pay the amount promised in the employee's H-1B or L-1 visa application;
    • Failing to pay the amount promised in the contract with the employee;
    • Paying H-1B, L-1, or B-1 employees a "home salary" in the currency of the employee's nation of origin rather than the prevailing wage paid to U.S. workers;
    • Underpaying employees by making improper deductions to employee's pay for travel, housing, living, and other expenses;
    • Requiring employees to pay the company the entire amount of their federal and state tax refund checks; and
    • Failing to provide overtime compensation, meal breaks, or rest breaks in accordance with state and federal law.