Abuse of H-1B School Teachers

By John Miano on October 28, 2009

The H-1B visa, that was supposed to be used to fill jobs where U.S. workers are unavailable, has created the business of importing people on H-1B visas. These companies are known as "H-1B bodyshops".

The way the system normally works is that a bodyshop gets H-1B visas for workers then rents those workers to other companies. The end company pays the the bodyshop who then pays the workers on H-1B visas. This arrangement allows companies to circumvent worker protections under the law and has detached H-1B usage from economic need.

But what has been reported (most recently in USA Today) in a case involving teachers imported to Louisiana is different:

* Philippine teachers paid a broker substantial amounts of money.
* The broker got H-1B visas for the teachers.
* The broker arranged for jobs with Louisiana schools.
* The teachers worked as employees of and were paid by the Louisiana schools.
* The broker retained the visas for the teachers and threatened to cancel them if the teachers did not pay the broker.

The difference then between the bodyshop arrangement and this broker arrangement is that the teachers were not being paid by or even behaving as paper employees of the broker.

If these are the facts, then what is going on is simply illegal. Those on H-1B visas can only work for the employer with the visa. If the broker has the visa (and is threatening to cancel it) and the teachers are working for and being paid by the school system, the teachers are working in the U.S. illegally. A worker can transfer a visa to another employer but it appears that this was not done so the broker could continue to shake down the teachers for more money.

I hope that the school system will try to make things right. They should immediately try to get H-1B visa transfers for the foreign teachers who have been abused. One would hope that the efficient folks at US Citizenship and Immigration Services would recognize the extreme nature of the abuse and use some administrative discretion here.

After that the Department of Labor needs to step in and ensure that these teachers get their money returned from the broker and the school system.

Finally, the responsible individuals at the school system need to be fired (and should have been already). These school systems could be looking at a world of hurt (read: They might be putting lawyers' children through college).

As this does not even come close to being the most extreme case of H-1B abuse, do not expect it to move Congress to ignore the lobbyists and clean up the H-1B program.